Identity theft is a criminal offence, but what happens when identity is not available to be stolen? Tracey McMahon

Identity details are in a vast range of legal and binding documents. My passport informs those who scan it, that I am female. My driving licence tells me I am female, as does my birth certificate; the “mother” of all legal documents. If I was to stand in front of you, I know you would tick the box, female.

I am a female offender. This gives me an identity. I fit into the MoJ statistics of female offenders. Awarded to me recently, was a new identity a “current female offender”, my suspended sentence runs smoothly and it is of great surprise in my house that at the halfway mark, I have a noun pre-fixed to my status. I wonder what identity comes next.

  • Con-woman
  • Ex con-woman
  • Ex-offender
  • Female fraudster
  • Ex-female fraudster

There are various identities that can loan themselves to me. This of course depends on where one is in their opinions.

Loss of everything a Woman Acquires

The introduction to my article must read as that of a woman who has not accepted her crime or her sentence. The truth is my identity cannot be stolen regardless of who tries. At the time of my sentencing, I was a broken woman. Everything that I had built up in my life, a home, a pending marriage and even my children I had lost. Marriage, home and children are maternal areas and for many; those three areas may be what make them a woman. My actions caused me to lose everything that I held dear. These actions resulted in short-lived homelessness, a suicide attempt and almost my liberty. As a woman, everything was gone that a woman could acquire in her life.

Identity is All Mine

This was six months ago. I have pulled back my business and I have a home. My identity has never changed. I am the same person I was before committing criminal offences. I am the same person, once upon a time, loved by friends and family. My core value of loving these people has never changed. In essence, that makes it obvious to me a person who has the unshakeable values. My identity has never changed despite the label society places on me. They are borrowed identities for a time until society decides to remove them. I am not the gatekeeper responsible for removal of those labels, only society is. See, my identity is all mine and when a person comes along and attempts to put it under a new shiny label, it belongs to me and is all mine. It will never be yours and if you try to take it, I will come along and take it back. I cherish, nurture my identity and that identity is not up for discussion. Any person can challenge my beliefs, opinions and choice of words, but nobody can steal my identity. I will not allow this to happen.

The Importance of Self

During the course of rehabilitation running alongside the punishment, the following question occurs, “you must have had your confidence and self-esteem taken away from you?” The response to that statement is one of denial. Take my freedom as you have the power to as I have broken the law, take my children, I do not deserve them; take my home because I could not afford to live there. The only things I had left were identity, self-confidence and self-esteem. Those three little things brought me through a time and it was from there; I was able to build from nothing. I lived at my mother’s property and slept on her sofa for three months. I worked seven days for 15-18 hours per day to pull the business into a workable position. I found a home and began to “nest” and six months on from this time, I have managed to make things easier and to lead a life. I have a good business with great clients and I aim to help women who are in a system that still, in 21st century misses the fundamental basic needs of women. I needed a home and this was all to begin to move forward. Here, I could re-connect with my inner self and draw on my skills to turn my life around.

Desisting from Crime

I do not think about crime or if I am going to re-offend. I am 45-years old and have been able to recognise why I committed the crimes I did without the long finger of Regina, former friends & family pointing down on me. I have been my biggest judge, jury and executioner and I no longer beat myself up with a brick. I do it with a feather. My rehabilitation belongs to me. I have used the liberty given to me while I serve my sentence to do the job without costing the government and the taxpayers.

From Then to Now

I am in the latter half of the suspended sentence. I have a clear vision of where I have been and where I am going. I have formed a business with people and between us; we have five decades of experience in the CJS. There are gaps even with the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms that will simply not address. As a middle-aged woman, my needs were clear, a home. It was from there I was able to build and formulate a life for myself and despite calling out for help in the initial stages, little help was forthcoming. Two projects are at the build stage with direct contact with women who for one reason or another are disengaged from services. I plan to pilot one in my hometown and a second project planned for the northeast.

There is always hope when any woman loses everything she owns and all she has worked for after crime. Building from nothing has been challenging and achieved by immense support. I would like to offer support directly to women who like me did not fit into the rehabilitation arena and together a unit will form in order to build projects that will directly help those missed by the system.

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