Ex-pris­oner turns life around with art

Macclesfield Express - - SCHOOLS NEWS - DANIELLE ROPER

AFORMER pris­oner who turned her life around through her award-win­ning art is draw­ing on her ex­pe­ri­ences to help other of­fend­ers

Cathy Roberts, 47, from Mac­cles­field town cen­tre, has be­come a pro­ba­tion vol­un­teer just three years af­ter be­ing jailed for ar­son and has been hailed ‘one of pro­ba­tion’s true suc­cess sto­ries’.

She be­gan paint­ing and writ­ing po­etry to help ‘chan­nel her emo­tions’, while serv­ing time at HMP Styal, from where she was re­leased last Au­gust. She has had her work fea­tured in ex­hi­bi­tions at Lon­don’s South­bank Cen­tre and Manch­ester’s Castle­field Gallery af­ter sub­mit­ting it to the Koestler Trust, a char­ity which ex­hibits of­fend­ers’ art­work.

Cathy, who is in re­cov- ery from drugs and al­co­hol af­ter strug­gling with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety since she was young, said: “I am pas­sion­ate about help­ing peo­ple and I’ve been through a great deal.

“I hope the ex­pe­ri­ences I have can be used to sup­port oth­ers.

“I’ve al­ways lacked con- fi­dence. My fam­ily told me I wouldn’t ever amount to much be­cause of my men­tal health prob­lems and I was ter­ri­bly ner­vous about ap­ply­ing for a po­si­tion.

“I cried with hap­pi­ness when I found out my ap­pli­ca­tion had been suc­cess­ful be­cause I never thought I’d end up volunteering with pro­ba­tion.”

Cathy’s role with the Cheshire and Greater Manch­ester Com­mu­nity Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Com­pany will in­volve meet­ing of­fend­ers and sup­port­ing the in­duc­tion process.

An­drea McGil­livray, se­nior pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer, who su­per­vised Cathy dur­ing her sen­tence, said: “I’d love for her to eventu- ally pro­vide peer men­tor sup­port to women of­fend­ers. I know she’ll be su­perb at re­lat­ing to them and she is also an ex­cel­lent role model of what pro­ba­tion can achieve.

“I am de­lighted for her and think she can bring an aw­ful lot to the ser­vice.”

Cathy set fire to her house when she was deeply de­pressed, de­pen­dent on drugs and self-harm­ing.

She said: “There’ve been many times dur­ing my re­cov­ery when it would have been eas­ier for me to pick up drink or di­azepam.

“Also, by cut­ting out drugs I had to cut out a lot of my old friends. But I’ve been clean now for two years.

“It’s still a strug­gle, but with sup­port from pro­ba­tion and by con­cen­trat­ing on things like art and po­etry I have been able to keep at it.

“If I can help oth­ers, I’d be very proud.”

●● Cathy Roberts with some of her art­work

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