Jess trained as a Peer Advisor after leaving prison and then secured a paid role working at St Giles, using her lived experience to support others. She has now developed her career at St Giles even further and is thriving in her new role.

Jess’s story

This story is part of the Peer Power series – a photographic collaboration between professional photographer Jeff Hubbard and Peer Advisors.  Earlier this year (2022) they worked together to portray their stories in photographic and written form.  Each one is unique but all highlight the true value of harnessing people’s lived experience of adversity to become a force for good.

After 8 years in custody St Giles Trust arrived, little did I know they would change my life! I found someone who saw me for me and all the positive things I could bring – I wasn’t judged, labelled or treated as an inferior. I was valued for the first time in what felt like forever. I completed qualification after qualification as these guys believed in me, which in turn led me to believe in myself.

I was 22 when I entered custody and what little confidence I had was stripped away. I plodded along, getting through each day the best I could, with no real purpose or goal. Although I wasn’t treated badly, I certainly wasn’t valued and my skills were probably exploited by the system rather than being used in a way that could benefit me. St Giles acknowledged what I could potentially achieve and I started to believe in myself a bit more. To have an organisation who not only saw past my situation and were non-judgemental, but actively encouraged me to achieve things that the prison wouldn’t usually allow was so overwhelming and I started to flourish in an otherwise oppressive environment.

St Giles provided me with purposeful qualifications that held the promise of future employment upon release and also gave me a satisfying and productive work role whilst still incarcerated, which saw my self-worth slowly but surely increase. My days started to fly by and before I knew it, 6 years later, I was coming up for release.

Two months remaining and the most amazing thing happened – the perfect job opportunity became available with St Giles. You honestly couldn’t write it! I did not know about this opportunity as I was stuck in lockdown unable to access St Giles. But true to their word of  employing me when a suitable opportunity arose, St Giles contacted me in custody and here I now am having successfully been employed with the most fantastic organisation for 8 months. The story doesn’t end there though.

My fabulous manager (Steve Clarke-whoop whoop!) who has supported me for all of these years has recently been encouraging and guiding me about my plans to progress. He has been open and honest. I can now say that I have very recently been successful in gaining another role, which is a massive progressive move in my career with St Giles Trust.

To say that I have been given a chance where others wouldn’t dare, is the biggest understatement. This organisation has supported me and seen me for all that I bring, which has not only helped me develop personally (with my growth in confidence and self-worth) and allowed me to successfully reintegrate back into society but given me a sense of achievement that is felt by my family and friends. I am able to support myself and so thankful that I did not have to be released to rely on my loved ones for financial support – in fact, it’s my turn to treat them! Thank you St Giles for giving me a chance, believing in me and positively impacting my life in more ways than I could express! I am honoured to be part of this team.


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