An ex-offender warned students of the serious consequences of carrying a knife after he was jailed for life for stabbing a man to death.
Paul, who preferred not to give his full name, spoke candidly to students at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) on 30 October.
He visited the College as part of 10 Stop The Knife sessions run by the charity London Village Network as part of its Don’t Be Me tour funded by the Evening Standard and Comic Relief.
Now released on licence after 22 years, Paul told students about the crime and the violence and harrowing experiences he faced in prison and the impact this had on him.
He said: “Prison destroys you mentally. It takes a piece of you every day. You cannot make up what happens to human beings when they’re locked in a box.
“Every day there is violence. You fear people are going to jump you. Once you’ve put yourself in that environment you cannot turn it off.
“If you’re carrying a weapon you could take someone’s life, or have it taken off you and used on you. You can run off – there’s nothing wrong with that. You do have a choice.”
The session started with a video featuring Paul telling his story before he shared more about his time behind bars and answered questions from students.
English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) student Denion Selimaj, 18, was stabbed in his home country of Albania when he was 15.
He said: “I understood all what he said as it happened to me. Listening to him talk about the bad things he went through and had seen in prison made me feel very scared.”
Health and Social Care student Hannah Sherriff, 28, said: “I was shocked to hear about the violence in prison among the inmates and how it affects some of them so much they take their own lives.
“For Paul to go through all he has and tell his story and make people think twice now about carrying a knife was very inspiring.”
London Village Network offers programmes to support young people with their personal development, career advice, gaining new skills and social issues and runs weekly and monthly events in Islington, Camden, Hackney and Brent.
In 2016 London Village Network received a Metropolitan Police Service Community Engagement Commendation Award for its work against knife crime.
Rachael Box, CEO and founder of London Village Network said: “Unfortunately, there is a generation of young people that seem to be more willing to carry knives, but we cannot sit back and expect them to solve this crisis themselves.
“It was really encouraging to see so many students at CONEL engage in this serious issue. Hopefully, Paul’s message will give anyone affected by knife crime the strength to disassociate themselves from it.”