'It was either die, or get help'

Image caption "Sandra" told Baroness Kennedy she started going to Tomorrow's Women's two years ago and said her life has turned around

Sandra has been an alcoholic for 26 years. She's now in her 40s and had been offending for about 20 years. She got a Community Payback Order as an alternative to prison two years ago, and started going to Tomorrow's Women, a community justice project which deals with the most hard-to-reach women in Glasgow. She hasn't had a drink or committed a crime in well over a year.

Sandra (not her real name) says: "When I first started coming to Tomorrow's Women, I wouldn't really engage - I was still drinking and I didn't want to face up to my problems. I was frightened.

"But last January, I decided I'd had enough - suicidal thoughts were coming into my head and I asked to go into rehab. Mentally and physically I was just broken. It was either die or get help.

"The staff from Tomorrow's Women helped me get into rehab, they came up to see me all the time. I started receiving trauma counselling. And it's made a massive, massive difference to my life.

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Media captionClinical psychologist Anne McKechnie gives trauma counselling to female offenders

"I was drinking because I didn't feel great about myself, I had no confidence because of a trauma experience and incidents that had happened in my life up until my 20s. I just let myself get used and abused, I suppose, for years. I felt that was all I deserved.

Tomorrow's Women
Image caption Tomorrow's Women has been in operation for just over three years and works with up to 100 women at a time

"When I came out of rehab, I started coming back here to Tomorrow's Women. The staff got me a flat, a cracking flat at the other end of the city. I had to change everything about my life - I really started engaging. So that's what helped. But it was very difficult.

"People think projects like this are a soft option, that prison's the hard bit. But I would say dealing with all your problems is harder. I went through every emotion that you could imagine. And at times I wanted to throw in the towel. It was so painful.

"I feel on top of the world now. I've made brilliant friends at Tomorrow's Women. I think the fact that it's all women is important. And the fact that it's a multi-agency service - you're not going from one side of Glasgow to the other. Somebody's helping you with your housing, mental health, all in the one place.

"A few weeks ago, I wasn't well, and the women offered to come up and get my shopping. It's wee things like that. With the lassies and the staff - nothing's fake. You're not tossed to the side because you're just classed as an alcoholic. Somebody's taking an interest in you and they're not looking for anything from you. It's meant a lot to me."

Women Prisoners: Throw Away the Key? will be broadcast on BBC One Scotland on Wednesday 15 June, at 21;30, and for a month afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.

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