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'It's never too late to change': Former prisoner turned mentor for school children

The message from former prisoner Michael Miles is clear.

Michael Miles at St Andrew's Primary School.

Speaking to schoolchildren, he says: “I’ve been in and out of jail since I was a little kid - it’s never too late to change.

Michael, from Bilston, was released from prison on June 6 after serving 13 years for two violent attacks including stabbing another man on a night out in Blackpool.

He was given a public protection sentence, designed to keep dangerous individuals off the street, meaning he was given an automatic life sentence with a minimum service time.

But he says he has learned his lesson – and now he is providing lessons of his own to children in schools in the Black Country.

Since he was 11, Michael has been consistently offending, even becoming involved with gangs.

Michael Miles.

At this young age he committed a house burglary, spiralling the youngster into more offences.

Michael, now 41, says now is the time to change.

He said: “I wanted to get my qualifications and make a difference in the community.

“I got to an age when I was sick of coming in and out of jail.

“A massive factor in my turnaround was my nan. I grew up with her and when I was away the second time my nan was diagnosed with dementia and it took her life quite quickly, it was a massive turning point for me.

“The night before she passed away I was taken out of prison to see her, we had a chat and I made a lot of promises to her and the next day she passed away.”

Since being released Michael has begun his own youth programme titled ‘Michael’s journey from bad to good’.

This scheme sets out six packages for school children, teaching them about the dangers of life in gangs, carrying weapons, experience in prison, the consequences of people’s actions, how it affects victims and anger management – all based on the experiences Michael has endured.

His latest stop is at St Andrew’s Primary School in Wolverhampton, where he tells his story and warns the youngsters not to slip in the spiral that saw him become a criminal.

Michael Miles at St Andrew's Primary School.

Michael added: “When I was 11 I had no help with people doing what I’m doing now, no one had been there and done it and was trying to put things right.

“I’m doing this, because I absolutely love it, at St Andrew’s there was a boy who wasn’t doing his work, after three days on my programme he’s now doing all his work, it’s had a big impact on him.

“If I can change just one child, even a small part, in a group of 10, that’s all I want.

“When I put everything about my experiences down on the table and the children listen to that, it makes me feel good.

“It’s the most important age, all my work is taken back to when I was 10 or 11 and what might have helped me, these kids relate to it straight away.

“When the kids come in I want to build a relationship with them, sit with them at the tables, on the floor and interact with them, and that’s important because that’s when they will listen and engage.

“As kids grow up some of them will have friends in prison and they’ll show you a photo and they’ll have everything in their cell, but these kids don’t know what those people have had to do to get those things.

“They’ll think ‘oh prison is easy’ well I’m here to say it’s not, to get these nice things you need to sell drugs, bully people, be involved in violence - it doesn’t happen if you keep your head down.

Michael Miles at St Andrew's Primary School.

“When I committed my crimes I never thought about the victims, until things happened to people close to me, when I grew up I saw things from a victim’s point of view.

“The kids need to understand about the ripple effect, the victim but then the other people it hurts - it’s important for them to learn empathy.

“For years as a kid I was a very angry child and I resolved issues with violence, anger management is important.

“I want to try and make a difference, that’s all I’m here for, I want to give something to the child for them to take away and use it.

“Nobody would expect this of me, especially people who know me in Bilston, before it was also people speaking about me negatively, it’s never too late to change.

“I’m sick to death of prison, it took until I was in my 40s to realise that, it’s horrible, but what I’m doing now is so rewarding, I love it.

“For years the government never accepted that people like me could make a difference, but now we can be accepted, we can turn our lives around.

“Companies that do a similar thing to me don’t have the experience or knowledge that I have and that’s a massive difference to change kids lives.”

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