How Dedicated Tees Team Is Supporting Re-Offenders in Bid to Turn Backs on Crime; HABITUAL Offenders Can Cause Misery for Crime Victims. SOPHIE BARLEY Looks at How an Intensive Approach on Teesside Aims to Stop the Cycle of Offending

Article excerpt

Byline: SOPHIE BARLEY

"I DON'T want a life of crime and drugs any more. I want stability".

Christine Screen - one of Redcar's most prolific offenders - is no stranger to prison after serving time for shoplifting and theft.

A crippling drug habit left her in a cycle of crime and punishment that proved tough to break. And Christine is by no means alone.

Across Teesside the problems of repeat offenders trapped in a life of crime causes misery for their victims.

But she is now starting to turn her life around - with help from a dedicated team called Integrated Offender Management (IOM).

IOM works with the 100 most prolific offenders in the Redcar area.

It consists of a team of four probation officers, three detective constables and a community-based prison officer. The team holds regular meetings with offenders, providing support and advice on issues such as housing, education, drug treatment and general welfare.

Christine was released from prison earlier this year and has been supported by IOM.

The Gazette spoke to her during a meeting with her probation officer in Middlesbrough to talk about her progress on her drug rehabilitation programme. She said it was because of her drug habit that she took to crime.

"I had a bad heroin habit and I was on tablets," she said.

"When I was on those tablets I felt invincible, like I could do anything.

"I would be in a shop and even if a shopkeeper was in front of me, I would try and pinch something. When I was sober again I would think 'what have I done?'."

Christine said she now wants to turn her back on drugs and her past.

She said: "Since I have been out of prison, I haven't been on the tablets. The IOM team have helped me a lot. The help is there and they are also supporting me.

"They are giving me things to do, to keep me busy and away from drugs. I wouldn't have got this far without them."

Christine has taken up new hobbies and hopes to one day become a counsellor.

Her probation officer Jo Robson said: "Christine has come so far in the last few months. She is doing really well - she is attending her sessions and is working well with other agencies - she is attending classes for cooking and gardening so she is keeping busy and staying positive."

As part of the IOM, the team visits prolific offenders on a night in their homes, to keep an eye on them and make sure they are where they should be and keeping out of trouble.

During one set of night visits Detective Constable Paul Hodgson, prison officer Eric Milburn, inset, and probation officer John Brown attended the homes of five prolific offenders.

Their first stop was to a man who is currently on a police tag after being convicted on burglary.

Det Con Hodgson described him as "one of the most prolific offenders" the team is working with. The officers didn't know whether they would find him at home or not.

But they did, he was in his front room, eating a substantial amount of apple pies and watching television. He told them: "I am doing all right, I am doing all right. I'm turning a corner".

The team talked to him about his recent activities and praised him for his better behaviour.

They then went on to visit a woman called Emma.

Emma, whose identify we are protecting, is being given one last chance by probation.

She was recently released from prison and days before the home visit, was arrested for drunk and disorderly behaviour. …

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