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Ex-Leeds prisoner to visit queen’s palace

Steven Ellis.

Steven Ellis.

An ex-prisoner who turned his life around is facing another stint at Her Majesty’s pleasure – this time at Buckingham Palace.

Former heroin addict Steven Ellis, from Hunslet, Leeds, was in and out of prison for about 14 years from the age of 21.

But he is about to find out how the other half live when he visits the Queen’s home after winning an award for helping drug users deal with their addictions through art.

He said: “No-one could have foreseen this. I’m just going to try to enjoy it. The main thing is that it highlights the good work that’s being done.”

The 37-year-old, who vowed to quit drugs after being jailed in 2008 for theft and burglary, developed a passion for art during the two years he spent at HMP Everthorpe, near Hull.

After leaving jail he took an access course at Leeds College of Art and is now doing a degree in fine art.

Having realised the therapeutic benefits art could have for people with addictions, he started running weekly sessions at Leeds DISC, a charity that works with West Yorkshire Probation Trust to help drug addicts.

Mr Ellis said: “Jail is a violent place. You’d see fights on a daily basis, but in 20 months in an art group I only ever saw one incident.

“I’ve never seen anything else do what art can do. Anyone can draw – it’s a way for people to express themselves, a visual representation of how people feel.”

He recently interviewed other prospective tutors to run sessions across Leeds.

Mr Ellis will be given the Butler Trust Award – which recognises outstanding work in criminal justice – by Princess Anne in March.

“I’m going to have to buy myself a suit,” he said.

“I can’t turn up in jeans and trainers.”

Sue Hall, chief executive of the probation trust, said: “The extraordinarily high level of commitment and dedication shown by Steven has, and will continue to, inspire offenders.”

 

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