In Callum’s own words – see below –  he shares part of his story which highlights where there is life there is hope. I hope to get the chance to answer some of the many questions you’ll no doubt have after reading this short account through a conversation with Callum in the near future.

“People celebrate milestone birthdays like there 21st with having huge party’s with their family and friends, enjoying reaching the age of adulthood, no longer a teenager and well on their way to creating a good life for themselves, with ambitions and plans. It was May the 2nd 2011.

I knew this day was coming, my belongings where packed the night before and the anxiety had set right in, not normally how people would spend their 21st birthday being transfered from Polmont young offenders to HMP Barlinnie. This wasn’t unusual to me, birthdays and Christmas had become “just another day” I had spent them all in prison since I was 16, this one was more significant than the others as I was graduating today I would no longer be a “YO” I was to become a “Con” an adult prisoner.

I heard the horror storys of the tough regime at Barlinnie, and how cons did not tolerate the young Offenders attitude. I had been used to Navigating prison, I knew the rules and the code amongst prisoners. I could do the mundane daily routine in my sleep, however I felt like a child starting a new school.

The G4S van made its way from the villages of Falkirk back to the city I was all to familiar with being from Glasgow and returning to the East End was almost a comfort however knowing I wouldn’t be free in my home city upon return was deflating.

The victorian jail I had seen all throughout my childhood and knowing many people who had passed through the gates. The bus pulled in and. we were given entry into the grounds and it felt like I was entering a small village with small houses and 4 huge buildings which where the halls. I was placed in the “Dug boxes” untill I was processed through reception. I was greated by a prison officer telling me “Yer no in the YOs now son none of that pish in here” all I had done was breath and he was telling me that I would have to comply with the Barlinnie regime or I would find out what would happen. I had to strip naked under the monitor of 2 prison staff just to make sure I hadn’t smuggled anything from Polmont to Barlinnie, I was given prison issue clothing had to repeat my jail number multiple times, that number is ingrained in my head like my date of birth even to this day, I was taken to the first night centre D Hall where I would spend my 1st night at HMP Barlinnie. I turned the TV on but I couldn’t focus on the programme. I looked through the small barred window and I could see the scheme I grew up in and the emotion overpowered all my thoughts and I started to think about about my wee boy, who I had left fatherless, I wondered what he was doing, was he safe? Would he forget me? A tear ran down my face. This was the stuff no prison warder, no con would ever get to see the vulnerability of a prisoner behind the door in there real prison of no escape, Their mind!

Following day I was moved from D Hall to B Hall for convicted prisoners, I seen the all too familiar faces, boys who I had been in the YOs with years previously, the usual squad from Maryhill and possil who seem to dominate Barlinnies prison population. I remember walking into the hall and looking up to the ceiling it seemed never ending the usual smell or prison bleach nipped your nose. I was placed in a cell that was used to hold prisoners before getting escorted, I gave my name and number to the PO and picked up a bed pack, the prison officer shouted very loudly “2nd flat admission” that was my que to go. I walked to my new abode, with the prison officer fear and anxiety churning away in my stomach worried I may be put in with an enemy from the outside, i lowered the eyebrows turn the swagger up a wee bit more and got ready to fight or flight, everyone in prison is in this constant state of mind always underpinned by fear. I recognised the name on the door and I was relieved it was friend rather than foe.

I was welcomed in and the cells or “peters” as they are called amongst the cons were smaller and not in as good a condition as I was used to in Polmont, there was a newspaper in the cell I looked at the date and realised again that I was 21years old today. My new co-pilot crunched a quarter of a tablet into powder and says do you want a line? I hadn’t used anything more than the odd bit of smuggled cannabis in prison before. “Subby geez ye a good buzz, we aw take it in here” my copilot says. Subutex was the new jail drug and was king and master of Barlinnie, I fell under its deadly spell that day. Addicted from that day forward for the next 4 years. HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY.

I despised herion and judged Addicts, here I am 21 years of age and using Subutex in prison. What happened? Guilt, shame, fear zero hope happened. I had accepted for a long time I would spend the rest of my life going in and out of prison, I believed I was a bad person incapable of changing.

I’m now 3 years sober been out of prison for 4 years. I’m in full time employment were I mentor people with offending backgrounds get into employment, I do interventions with young people who are on the cusp of the criminal justice system to try and prevent them ending up in prison or early graves. I go back into Polmont today through the work I do sharing my story and creating hope and proving that change is possible, and That they are so much more than the worst thing they have ever done.


Hidden Voices aims to give those people who have no platform a voice and an opportunity to be heard it also hopes to highlight examples of those who have emerged from a dark place to create a positive life for themselves and in Callum’s case even go on to mentor those who find themselves in a similar or under threat of a similar dark place. More power to you young man, we need more hope dealers  like you.

Any thoughts or comments are welcome.

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