"I was born in Islington, but I moved in with my nan when I was young. It was a bit of a hell-hole; Nan was quite abusive. When I was 13, she got me and my little brother arrested one night for breaking a light bulb, which got me into offending for the first time.
"At 14, I moved out of Nan’s and started moving around a lot. My mum came back on the scene, and I moved in with her. She had a boyfriend, and we really didn’t get on – he was a drinker, and took drugs. He gambled all the money away, and he was often abusive towards my mum. I ended up getting kicked out.
"I started having parties in my flat every day, and that’s when I got introduced to cocaine. I was 16."
"I started squatting in empty flats, and I stopped going to school. My mum was going to give me the child benefit and tax credit that she received for me, but she took it all for herself, so that left me with no money. I started stealing petty things from shops just so I could eat.
"Finally, somebody from my school intervened, and got me in with social services. I was moved to a bedsit on my own, but the block it was in had a really bad reputation. It put me in contact with people who had just come out of prison, with serious drug and alcohol problems.
"I don’t remember my first burglary – I was off my face."
"I started having parties in my flat every day, and that’s when I got introduced to cocaine. I was 16. I just wanted to sniff more and more, it made me feel like nothing bothered me. That’s when I first got sucked into doing burglaries.
"A friend showed me how to do it. I don’t remember my first burglary – I was off my face. The excitement, the fear of getting caught, the adrenaline rush was great. But I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t think this was people’s stuff, their hard earned money. I just didn’t look past my own greed.
"We got too cocky, and we decided to do over a shop…I was arrested about five days later."
"I was kicked out of my flat on my 17th birthday. Social services jumped in and put me in a shared bedroom. My friend came to stay with me for a bit, and we were back on the burglaries again, just doing what we wanted. We got too cocky, and we decided to do over a shop. We were so off our heads that we didn’t care if we got caught.
"I was arrested about five days later. I spent two or three days in the cells, and I thought about my family, especially my mum and my little brother. I’d distanced myself from everyone, apart from my little group of mates, but they weren’t doing me any favours. It was just a self-destructive path where I could end up dead or in jail for a really long time. I was sick of it all.
"I participated in a programme called JETS, which is a bit like restorative justice. They made us see how our actions affect everyone around us and that’s when I first met Alan, my probation worker."
"While I was on bail, social services moved me to Southend, and that did me the world of good. I started going to do some community work, and I made a list of the places I could remember burgling – I think altogether there were 80 or 90 offences. Doing this work, I thought, 'These are real people.' I finally cared, and it finally hit me about these victims.
"As much as I hate having my criminal record, going to prison’s the best thing I’ve done. My mum wrote to me every day, and visited me too – she was really supportive. They had a school in there, and I started getting the grades I should have had.
"I was released after seven months, and the first thing I had to do was go to my youth offending team office. Alan mentioned restorative justice to me and I thought it sounded good."
"I participated in a programme called JETS, which is a bit like restorative justice. They made us see how our actions affect everyone around us, and that’s when I first met Alan, my probation worker. Alan talked to me about writing letters to victims, and possibly going on day release from prison to meet them. I said I’d be happy to write a letter, but I didn’t want to meet the victims while I was inside. It would have looked like I was only doing it to get my early release.
"I was released after seven months, and the first thing I had to do was go to my youth offending team office. Alan mentioned restorative justice to me and I thought it sounded good. Quite a few victims wanted to come forward. Alan tried to talk me through what was going to happen, and reassured me that no one was going to be yelling at me, that it was going to be a safe, controlled environment.
"I wanted to prove to myself that I could actually get through this, and do it. That I wasn’t just going to run away and hide from it like I used to run away and hide from everything else."
"Nothing prepared me for it. I think the main fear was looking into the eyes of people that I’d stolen from, the people that I’d made feel unsafe and brought pain to. I even had nightmares over it, I was that worried. I didn’t tell Alan as I really didn’t want to let him down. I wanted to prove to myself that I could actually get through this, and do it. That I wasn’t just going to run away and hide from it like I used to run away and hide from everything else.
"The first meeting came. I remember it was a couple. When they first walked in, I literally felt like cracking in half and disappearing. I didn’t want to be there. Paul did the introduction part, and they asked me why I did it, and if they were a specific target. The more the meeting went on, the more I felt comfortable being there, and I opened up more.
"I felt like I’d got a chance to explain my situation, and they’d got a chance to explain their feelings towards me, which helped me to understand how wrong it was."
"When it was over, I felt on top of the world. The main thing they were worried about was that they were specifically targeted, and that we were going to come back for them again because they’d called the police. I felt really good that I’d taken a bit of the weight off their shoulders, and that I’d done something right.
"I was always scared stiff before every meeting. But then after every meeting, I came out as happy as anything. I felt like I’d got a chance to explain my situation, and they’d got a chance to explain their feelings towards me, which helped me to understand how wrong it was. All in all, that was brilliant."
"Every time, it kind of broke me, but it made me as well."
"Going to prison, that’s just running away and getting away from it all. But to actually go into a room and sit down knowing that they’re going to walk through that door in a few minutes and want to know why you stole from them – that’s scary for me.
"Every time, it kind of broke me, but it made me as well. I was looking in their eyes and thinking I don’t know these people, they don’t know me, they’ve never done anything wrong in life, as far as I can tell, and I’ve taken their things. A lot of people would have said, 'No, I’m not doing that' but I tried to give them the best explanation I could, and apologise for what I’d done.
"At the moment, I’m being a full time dad to my four-month-old daughter. She’s been the main turning point for me, her and my partner. I want to do the best I can now. I’d like to work with kids like me, trying to stop them getting into the life I had. I want to get myself involved in as much as possible and do some good things for the community, to try and give something back. I want to make a difference."
The RJC would like to thank Kelvin for sharing his story with us.
© Restorative Justice Council 2015 – do not reproduce without permission.
For interview requests please contact Safi Schlicht:email@example.com