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20 April 2011, 06:00
An ex-heroin addict says his life has changed thanks to a police project he's been taking part in for the last four years.
27-year-old Michael Hobbs from Welwyn Garden City is the first person to complete Hertfordshire Police's Choices and Consequences Scheme. It aims to rehabilitate repeat offenders instead of send them to jail.
Michael, who was previously homeless and has been to prison twice before, volunteered to take part in the scheme in 2007, after deciding he wanted to end his heroin and crack cocaine habit, which he was funding by committing burglary and car crime.
When he started the programme, Mr Hobbs had to confess to all of his crimes and stick to a strict programme of drugs testing, regular probation meetings, treatment and support. Failure to meet the conditions would have seen him face a long jail sentence, which would have taken in to account all the crimes he had previously admitted.
Yesterday (Monday 18th March) Michael attended St Albans Crown Court, to mark the completion of his time on the programme. He now plans to return to education and become a drug councillor to help other people in a similar position to him.
Mr Hobbs told Heart without the programme his life would be very different now:
"I've got a chance at life now. I'm not using, I'm not out committing crime. I've got a flat, I've got a family. So, yeah, everything's changed."
And he says the future looks much brighter for his three-year-old son too:
"Hopefully, fingers crossed, he won't have to go through the same that I did, and he won't turn round and do drugs. I think that's probably the best that I can hope for."
Detective Inspector Stuart Campfield, who manages the scheme for the Constabulary said:
"With the programme Michael has made a real difference for himself and his family - not to mention the potential victims had he not stopped offending - and I wish him all the success for the future. He should be proud of this achievement over the past four years.
Steve Johnson-Proctor, Director of Operations with Hertfordshire Probation Trust said:
“Many people will think that only prison is suitable for cases like this. Michael had been to prison previously and quickly adapted to it but it did nothing to change him. Being on this programme has meant significantly fewer victims of burglary and the misery that brings, as well as changing Michael’s life so he can make a positive contribution to his community and be a decent role model for his young son."
"We hear much about soft community sentences but Choices and Consequences is anything but - and it works.”
The scheme is the only project of its type in the country, and currently has 25 participants. Everyone who takes part is a non-violent offender and is likely to have an addiction of some kind. The scheme aims to provide a cheaper and more effective alternative to prison for prolific offenders and to provide a long-term solution to reducing crime in Hertfordshire.