Melanie moves others to reject a life of crime

Melanie Humphries was jailed for nine years after her house was raided by police who linked her to a £22million cocaine supply ring.

The police uncovered equipment related to the packaging and supply of the Class A drug. Melanie was sentenced to 108 months in custody and is now being supervised on licence by Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company probation caseworker Karen Atherton.

Melanie got into trouble after getting into a relationship with a prominent member of a notorious drug gang.

She says that naivety was her biggest problem, and now delivers a moving workshop aimed at school children to help them avoid the pitfalls she fell into.

The mum-of-one said: “I lost absolutely everything because of a stupid mistake. I dated a well-known drug dealer and I was vulnerable. My first relationship had been a disaster and I suffered domestic abuse. I craved safety and protection and the man I fell for certainly provided that.

“He gave me a job as a cleaner. There was equipment in the van I used, which I kept at my house on the night it was raided.

“Apparently what I’d kept in the house was all for production and packaging. A press, scales, washing up bowl, blender and face masks. I was done for conspiracy to supply £22million of drugs.”

Karen’s first role – as with anyone who has served a long jail sentence – was to help Melanie reintegrate into society, which includes ensuring her accommodation was stable and that she had a good social circle to help her readjust.

Melanie said: “Karen has been amazing. She’s supported me with everything I want to do. Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t stand for any messing, but she looks at my strengths and is helping me make a new life.

“I lost my house due to the custodial sentence and came out to nothing. I found a new property, but Karen supported me to get through the bureaucracy and helped me get the keys.

“I know she’s there for me and doesn’t judge me and after what I’ve been through – when you genuinely find out who your real friends are – relationships like that really matter.”

Melanie completed a substantial number of courses while in custody and following being released has delivered a series of courses and workshops at schools around Greater Manchester and the North West aimed at raising awareness about the reality of prison and the dangers involved in being associated with gangs.

Melanie has recently completed her Level 3 safeguarding course and is passionate about telling her story to break down barriers about what it means to be in prison and to help others avoid making her mistakes.

She said: “It’s my passion, I don’t mind using myself as an example but don’t start off by saying I’ve been inside. It’s then interesting to see pupils react to me after I describe the experiences I’ve had.

“Yes, my partner’s lifestyle was flash. I’m not trying to pretend I was completely in the dark about what he did, but I made absolutely no money out of the gang and ended up losing a big chunk of my life as a result. I don’t want others to make the same mistake.”

Melanie has also completed a charity trek up Ben Nevis, attended parliament to support Women in Prison and gained employment with an organisation called Elephant Trail, a social networking group in Greater Manchester that brings together people with lived experience and professionals to help build cohesion in communities.
Karen said: “I’m deeply impressed by the way in which Melanie has adjusted to life outside the prison gates having spent such a long time inside and that she is using her experience to help youngsters. Melanie says she met many women inside who have poor mental health and she’s committed to stopping people from ending up in custody.

“Before COVID-19 Melanie was a member of our Bury Women’s Centre and found that peer-to-peer support exceptionally helpful and has done everything I’ve asked of her.

“Sadly, I often meet women like Melanie who have been a victim of domestic abuse and then make bad decisions and get into trouble. But Melanie also shows it’s possible to break that chain and make positive changes.”

Melanie is hoping to launch her workshop to schools, youth projects, community groups and the police in the Summer.