There are men and women, this week and over the Christmas period, who are hoping for a fresh start in life.

For people being released from prison, after serving their sentence, many are looking at an uncertain future. It can be another crossroads in their lives.

Will they put the past behind them and become law abiding citizens with a job and a home and a life or will they return to the life before that led to a spell in jail?

Sisco (Sustainable Interventions Supporting Change Outside ) runs services in Barlinnie Prison to help men prepare, to give them as much of a chance as possible.

Natalie Logan Maclean, chief executive of Sisco, said Christmas, for those inside prison, is even more lonely than normal.

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She said: “On Christmas morning the first thing you see are steel doors and four concrete walls. Instead of tinsel and baubles, frameless photographs and letters hang on the wall. Instead of smiling faces of family and friends, and the laughter and cheer that would fill a room, you are surrounded by nameless strangers, who too, are dreaming of a Christmas at home.

“For the over 8,000 men and women within the Scottish Prison Service, this is the reality that they are facing at this time of year. Coming to terms with the fact that you will be spending Christmas locked away from family and friends is not an easy task.”

And for those getting ready for release, thinking about life on the outside can be just as daunting.

She added: “For people who are newly released, the reality of their circumstance during the festive period is not much better.

“Men and women face unequivocal difficulties. Landlords are hesitant to rent to ex-offenders, meaning a place to rest your head becomes a luxury, not a necessity.

“Employers view ex-offenders with caution, meaning jobs and employment become hopelessly unachievable, further perpetuating economic difficulties.

“Incarceration further impacts on social connections and family units, leaving those ending their sentence, possibly without a strong support network which further consolidates their difficulties. “

Gordon was in Barlinnie, looking ahead to leaving prison but had little hope of a new life.

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He had been through the criminal justice cycle throughout his childhood and early adult life, spending years in residential care homes and young offenders’ institutions.

He said: “I struggled to understand myself and my purpose. I felt misjudged all the time and just couldn’t cope with my life.

“My life never served any purpose or meaning, and I was just a product of a system.”

Gordon started to attend sessions in Barlinnie with Sisco.

He was referred to services, including Kelvin College and Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs (SFAD).

Ms Logan Maclean, said: “He was gaining skills he didn’t think he could achieve. He started to understand addiction and within a few months he was learning ways to cope with his thought’s feelings and emotions.”

However, on release, as all too often happens , Gordon was drinking heavily and using drugs he hadn’t used before. He said he was at his “rock bottom and wanted to die”.

He got back in touch with Sisco, who continue their work on the outside, operating just now within the coronavirus restrictions.

Ms Logan Maclean, said: “We created a care plan offering wrap around support and mentor sessions, within weeks he was linking in with other services and building up his skills again.

“Gordon attends the recovery hub every week and takes part in group work sessions, online support groups, he attends the meet up every Sunday to do hill walks, but most recently with the government restrictions we are now doing weekly park walks.”

Gordon said the support not only changed but saved his life.

He said: “I heard about a woman, Natalie, that ran a recovery hub within Barlinnie and I put my name down to attend. Rab Kerr, a prison officer, saw how desperate I was and literally dragged me over.

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“I had mixed feelings about going but knew I had to try something new.

“If it hadn’t been for that officer, I would never have been brave enough to go to the very place that saved my life.

“For the first time ever, I know my life is going in the right direction and I never want to lose everything I have built up, it means too much.”

Sisco self care tips

S​elf-reflection: Write a letter to yourself. Where do you want to be in a year from now? What have you learnt from the past year?

I​nspiration: Has someone you know inspired you? Thank them for it in a letter or a phone call.

S​tart your year right: Set a list of goals and things you want to achieve.

C​ontinue developing: Exercise, meditation, employment skills, education.

O​ne of a kind: Everybody’s different. How you overcome obstacles is what defines you, not the obstacles themselves.