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12th August 2015

Mark’s on ‘Wright’ track

Mark Wright (pictured left) together with operational support officer Kieran Hickey and probation services officer Kelly Jeffers.

Mark Wright (pictured left) together with operational support officer Kieran Hickey and probation services officer Kelly Jeffers.

LESS than three years after being thrown in jail after being arrested in one of Manchester’s biggest drugs raids, Mark Wright is clean and embracing a new life.

But the 48-year-old believes that he would be dead if it wasn’t for his probation services officer Kelly Jeffers.

Greater Manchester Police nailed 25 drug dealers after a 100 warrants were issued as part of Operation Challenger, in 2013. More than 50 tonnes of counterfeit goods were recovered, together with street drugs with a value of £450,000.

Mark, from Mossley Road, Ashton, got caught up in peddling hard drugs after he became addicted and ran up debts. He was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court in November, 2013, to two years in custody for selling heroin.

Mark is now supervised on licence by Kelly, who works for the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company.

The father-of-one, who had once been a successful contracts manager for a building company, initially used cocaine and ecstasy at the weekend. But Mark turned to drugs in a big way after being laid off following the recent economic down turn. His mother passed away shortly after.

He said: “I’d worked my way up for 30 years. Being made redundant, and the devastating loss of my mum, it hit me hard.

“My drug use went from occasional Fridays, to weekend use – then a mid-week pick me up. I sold property I owned, sold my cars. I can now see I was trying to block it out, but at the time I never stopped to question what I was doing.

“Very, very quickly my social life fell apart. I turned to amphetamine as a cheaper option and it took a hold of me. The real world got further and further away.”

In the space of just 18 months Mark lost everything and was reduced to foraging for food in bins as his weight plummeted and he slept in crack dens.

He said: “If I apply myself to something, I give it 100 per cent. Sadly that was also true of drugs. I was injecting 28 grams of speed a day, which was costing me about £100. Some of the dealers pointed out I was running up debts and suggested I started dealing.

“I became a regular face in the drugs community and I was accepted. Although I was a rubbish drugs dealer because I gave away lots at parties and was also a sucker for a sob story.”

Mark’s wake-up call occurred after a police drugs sting. He twice sold heroin to an undercover copper.

He said: “I didn’t think so at the time, but prison was the best thing that could have happened to me. From the minute I got arrested I quit drugs.”

Mark spent three weeks on remand before appearing in court. The Manchester Evening News carried his mug shot as part of its coverage of Operation Challenger’s success on February 19th, 2014. Mark keeps the picture on his mobile to remind him of where drugs took him.

He said: “The shock of going to prison was a reality check. Quitting drugs was easy for me because I wanted that change. I went straight to the recovery groups, but I was still recovering from speed withdrawal and couldn’t tell if it was day or night.”

Mark was soon moved to HMP Forest Bank, where he threw himself into the recovery wing’s activities and completed 42 courses.

He said: “I’d imagined that prisons were about more punishment and less about rehabilitation, but that wasn’t true of Forest Bank.”

Before Mark’s release he believed the adjustment would be straightforward.

He said: “I thought I didn’t need probation, that’d it would just be a place I’d go so they could keep an eye on me and that it’d be a tick box exercise and that Kelly didn’t need to worry about me.”

Mark’s accommodation fell through after a week on the outside, and he ended up sofa surfing.

He said: “My whole plan collapsed. I felt totally on my own. I’d not even considered probation to be part of my support network, but within a week it became my only support network.

“Kelly stopped me from becoming penniless and homeless. Probation has been my saviour. I haven’t got a bad word to say about probation. Without Kelly I don’t think I’d be here today. I think I’d be dead.

“She could tell things weren’t going well and asked me what was wrong. I was upfront. She told me I had to look at each problem and think about what positive action we could take to resolve each issue.

“Kelly got me a room within two days. I cannot believe it now, but I threw it back in her face and said it wasn’t where I wanted to live. She then sent me to meet Jo Wells from Housing Options, and Jo was key to getting me a place I could call my own.”

Mark is now a recovery mentor with Emerging Futures, which helps to deliver Through the Gate support to offenders leaving HMP Manchester.

He said: “Had it not been for Kelly, heroin was coming. I owe her a massive debt of gratitude for the support she has given me. I’ve sat with her and cried as things went wrong, she has cared, she’s showed compassion. The same can be said for all the probation staff I’ve met so far.

“Probation has given me back my dignity and self-esteem – and that’s priceless.”

Probation supported Mark with food vouchers, housing advice and support in looking for employment.

Kelly said: “Mark’s eagerness to change was evident from the outset, but while Mark  learned how to manage extremely well while in custody, people often find that pressures are much more difficult to deal with after release. When things did not go his way, I made sure I was there to talk him through the stages, support him emotionally and refer him to the agencies which could help him. It was up to him to either take the advice or not.

“He needed to make his own choices, but I also made sure he knew I’d be there for him if things didn’t go as he hoped. This was a big factor for Mark because he had limited support elsewhere.

“Mark has done all the hard work and he is now a shining example that people can achieve better for themselves.”

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