Wiltshire ex-offenders are getting a second chance to put their past behind them and start again.

The Integrated Offender Management (IOM) scheme, led by Wiltshire Police, brings together agencies including local authorities and probation to work with offenders who are just out of prison to help rehabilitate them.

An example of the scheme’s success is 37-year-old Will Gifford, from near Malmesbury, who was jailed twice for burglary after he broke into his neighbours’ homes and stole alcohol to feed his former drinking addiction.

It was when he was released from prison the second-time that he took the opportunity to join an IOM programme 18 months ago and he now feels he has a future.

Will said: “I truly believe that my life is now fantastic due to the IOM and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and those people attached to it.”

Those people include Mark Wilkinson, from Wiltshire Police, who helps run the IOM programme in the county.

Wiltshire Times: Mark Wilkinson of Wiltshire PoliceMark Wilkinson of Wiltshire Police

Mark said: “Whilst some people commit crime purely as a lifestyle choice, many feel they have no alternative due to unforeseen circumstances or because of being alienated due to past behaviour which has led to them being unable to get work or other support to help them break free from committing crime.”

Will, who was sent to prison once for six weeks and again for 10 weeks, says that it was meeting Mark which helped him kick the habit of drinking and committing crime.

“Both AA and Mark have given me so much confidence and self-belief to help get me out of that destructive cycle of drinking and offending.  But I have had to work at it too.  It’s a two-way thing – change has had to start with me,” he said.

“Prison was definitely the pivotal moment for me. The first time I was on a wing for first time offenders and although not nice, it wasn’t really that hard.

“The second time was much more difficult – I was on the big boys’ wing and surrounded by violent men who scared me. It wasn’t nice and that shock helped to wake me up.”

Will now works with his dad in a family business, having trained as a pet behaviourist after leaving prison. He’s also a keen sailor, racing his small boat when he can.

He said: “I am determined to keep on doing what I am now doing - building the business, sailing my dinghy, continuing to attend AA, remaining sober and staying on the straight and narrow.

“In fact, I am now helping others who are new to AA – giving them the support that I received when I first started going.” 

Mark Wilkinson acknowledges that Will is a completely changed man since they met 15 months ago.

He said: “Will is a success story and reflects how the IOM programme can help individuals providing that person is prepared to put the work in.”