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'I was a lost soul'

Jack Hawksworth tells Sarah Olowofoyeku how he went from committing crimes to finding a positive purpose in life

God gave me a new heart

KICKED out of school for drugs at the age of 13 and sent to a secure unit by 14, 27-year-old Jack Hawksworth can hardly believe the way his life has turned out.

‘I grew up in south Manchester, Wythenshawe,’ he says. ‘My mum was bringing up four boys on her own; we didn’t have a father around.

‘When I was 13, our house was raided by the police because my older brother was involved with a gang. I think seeing that at a young age had an effect on me. Everyone was getting involved in the same kind of stuff – it was all we knew.’

When in Year 8, Jack was found with cannabis, and his school career was over. After being expelled, he started committing burglaries and taking ecstasy.

‘By the time I was 14 I was in a secure unit. It felt like a foster home but with a big fence round it. I did five months there,’ he says.

And that was just the beginning. ‘Between 14 and 16, the longest I was out of prison in one go was about two months,’ he says. ‘But everyone was doing crime; being caught was a minor thing.’

Jack also carried firearms and was soon caught for possession, for which he served two different sentences. When he was released, he continued his life of crime and was arrested for robbery. He was sentenced to seven years, but this stretch inside was unlike any of his others.

There was a music programme that offenders could take part in at the prison, but to do so they had to attend The4Points course, which teaches the basics of the Christian faith.

‘I didn’t really care what the course was. I just wanted to get into the music studio, so I did it,’ Jack says.

He ended up taking the course four more times because he enjoyed it so much. It led him to take a Bible study course that changed the way he thought about life.

‘When I started to look into Christianity, my whole mind and heart changed,’ he explains. ‘It’s like God gave me a new heart. It was crazy.

‘I didn’t have this amazing encounter with God in my cell like some people do. But I was lying in my bed one day, and it just hit me – it was like someone had switched the light on. I remember thinking about all the time I had wasted in my life that I was never going to get back. I believe that God opened my eyes to that.

‘Where my life is now compared with where it was then is a miracle. No one thought I could change. No courses, nothing could stop me from smoking weed. But I haven’t smoked weed for five years. I feel like I’ve got a purpose now. I was a proper lost soul, blind for years, and all of a sudden I wasn’t.’

When Jack was released from prison, he struggled to find work, but was given an opportunity by the Message Trust, the organisation that ran the Christianity and music courses in prison.

‘I work on the building team,’ he says. ‘I’m on something similar to an apprenticeship, but you get a proper wage. It helps us to get skills for the real world, and less than 3 per cent of people who join the Message reoffend. It’s a good place to work.’

Jack is still in disbelief at how his life has turned out. He has the support of his family and friends, even those who are still living his old way of life.

‘No one ever thought I was going to change,’ he says. ‘So everyone is proud of me.’

Jack is out of prison, but he didn’t leave his interest in music behind bars. Under the name Black Jack, he has been releasing music via his YouTube channel, which has clocked more than one million views.

‘My name is out there in the community, and people see me as a role model,’ he says.

‘I recently did a documentary with the BBC and recorded a song and a music video with a group of young people from Wythenshawe.’

Jack tells his story through his music, and, though it isn’t explicitly Christian, he doesn’t shy away from letting other people know that God changed his life.

‘Recently, a guy messaged me to ask what it was that made me change. After I told him, he joined a course that explains Christianity. Through that, he has given his life to God.

‘I’ve also been invited to speak in schools, and I’ve been to the prison that I was once released from to speak and perform in the chapel. How crazy is that!’

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