Stark warning for kids intent on crime

SEEING the cold, lifeless body of his former cellmate lying dead on a cell floor was a final straw for Justin Brame.The former lag, who spent eight years in and out of prisons and young offenders institutions, urged teenagers not to waste their lives away through crime warning "crime doesn't pay.

By Amanda Cresswell

SEEING the cold, lifeless body of his former cellmate lying dead on a cell floor was a final straw for Justin Brame.

The former lag, who spent eight years in and out of prisons and young offenders institutions, urged teenagers not to waste their lives away through crime warning "crime doesn't pay."

Justin has now put the past behind him. But with youth crime on the rise, the 23-year-old hopes youngsters can learn from his experiences in an effort to steer them away from offending.


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"I have been punched, hit and bitten in prison," he said. "It is no life. It wrecks your future and rips families apart."

Justin has spent time inside for burglary, including breaking into buildings and once into an empty room.

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He lists a string of prisons he has spent time in including Weymouth, Liverpool, Blundeston, Chelmsford, Hollesley and more recently Norwich, where he was bullied because in his own words "he was a soft target" and saw a man hang himself.

The memories of that night will haunt him forever.

"He hung himself with a shirt," he said. "I tried to talk him out of it but couldn't stop him. He was 6 ft tall and very heavy. I remember his body afterwards on the cell floor. I was so wound up after I was ended up punching the wall."

He has spent four Christmases and two birthdays behind bars. To be separated from family, especially at Christmas, can reduce even the most hardened criminals to tears. Visits are kept to one hour a week and cells are little more than the size of a bathroom.

He said while some youngsters think magistrates dole out soft punishments to youths when cases are dealt with before a judge at the crown court the tough sentences really kick in.

"To youngsters I'd say don't do it. It is just not worth it. Some youngsters think it is funny and it is a laugh. But it is not. You are hurting your victims, yourself, your family and ruining your own life. It also hampers future job prospects."

Justin, who now lives in the Salvation Army Hostel in Ipswich, was hauled through the courts for the first time shortly after his teenage girlfriend was killed by a drink driver in a head on crash in 1994.

He received his first jail sentence for burglary in November 1995 and his longest stretch in 1998 - 37 months - after breaking into a public building when he was drunk.

He has since apologised to all his victims.

Now rebuilding his life Justin has taken up volunteer work, is about to embark on a further education course and hopes to complete Gold Silver and Bronze in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

"I know I have done wrong. I regret what I have done. I deserved to get sent down and I can't turn the clock back. I am trying to get my whole life back to normal again."

He hopes to give talks in schools so other youngsters can learn from his experience.

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