‘My treatment in Guernsey prison start of my new life’
A FORMER drugs trafficker has described how a jail sentence in Guernsey Prison led to him turning his life around from chronic addiction to becoming a qualified social care worker and inspirational speaker to young people.
In 2006, when he was 36, Adam Pagett was sentenced in the Royal Court to 10 years in prison for being involved in importing 440g of crack cocaine, worth up to £176,000.
Fourteen years later, he is now about to receive a Bachelor of Arts honours degree in social work, and this month started employment with Bradford Council as part of their youth homeless team.
The arrest in 2005 by Guernsey Police was the culmination of years of drug abuse, petty theft, homelessness, chaotic relationships and a life that had spiralled out of control.
He believes that without the arrest, remand in custody and subsequent jail sentence, he would not be alive.
‘When I stepped off that plane at Guernsey Airport and I was arrested it was like a relief, my crazy life was coming to an end. I was stuck in a cycle of addiction and an association with people that I couldn’t get out of, it was like being on a runaway train and I couldn’t get off, so being arrested gave me a beginning to ending it.’
Mr Pagett moved to Guernsey from the UK in February 2002 to start work as a waiter.
Prior to that he had been in the Army for nearly six years, but was dishonourably discharged for drugs offences.
His childhood was difficult because he was born into relative poverty and left school without any qualifications.
After leaving the Army he struggled to adjust to civvy street and for the next decade lurched from one crisis to another.
He was fired from jobs regularly, lost his home, became bankrupt to the tune of £58,000, and started shop-lifting.
The underlying theme was drug use, and by his own admission, he had turned into a full-blown heroin and crack cocaine addict with the habit costing between £100 to £200 per day.
For seven months he lived on the streets in London, getting by through begging.
During his worst points he was injecting drugs into his arms, hands, feet and occasionally neck, because his tolerance level was so high.
Guernsey was meant to be a fresh start, and it started off well with new friends and a new relationship, but eventually addiction followed him and drugs on the island were rare and expensive so he started flying back to the UK at weekends just to take drugs and bring enough back to sustain him.
He fell in with a gang which wanted to get a large amount of crack cocaine into Guernsey, and he agreed so that he could ensure himself a supply of drugs.
Caught and in prison, he was diagnosed with poly substance abuse psychosis because he had been using whatever he could get his hands on, including heroin, crack cocaine, speed, and benzodiazepines like diazepam.
He also had ‘crack lung’, which is an acute pulmonary condition caused by excessive crack use and involves patients coughing up black phlegm.
Mr Pagett was able to get help from a psychiatrist and a psychologist, who made him examine the problems of his past and confront them, and prison became a place for rehabilitation and healing.
‘A lot of the staff were ex forces, and they treat you like human beings. I had a lot of respect for the staff, I never had animosity towards prison officers or police, I deserved every single day I got in prison, I still keep in touch with a lot of the staff.
‘In prison I was working with a guy called John Knight, he was the substance and misuse worker, along with Tracey Rear and they told me I could do drugs counselling work because I had a lot of life experience, so we looked at what courses I could do, at that point I hadn’t thought of social work.’
He put his jail time to good use and studied GCSE maths and English, and did gardening jobs.
One particular incident he recalled in prison was when his mum came over to visit, just three weeks before her death.
He was struck with the kindness the officers showed his mum, and how they reassured her that her son was going to be OK.
One officer took a photo of them together, and that picture has now become a treasured possession.
Released on parole he went back to the UK and applied for 18 jobs and only got one reply, which was a rejection.
On the brink of re-offending again, eventually he managed to get voluntary work and later paid work at a hostel for homeless people.
He now has what he describes as his dream job, but it has taken years of hard work and studying different courses at college to completely turn his life around.
Mr Pagett is sharing his story to show that it is possible to break through and overcome the past.
‘I still read the Guernsey Press articles online every now and again, and I’ve thought about phoning the Guernsey Press before to let people know that it did work, that they did good by somebody.
‘I didn’t want to just be known as that crack smuggler guy that just left, nobody ever hears about what happens after.
‘Guernsey Prison helped me become me again, to shake off my past and become the person I was before my drug use and everything else, I was treated as a person, I was never degraded, it gave me my dignity and self-esteem.’