HAVING been trafficked from war-torn Liberia by drug dealers, at whose hands she had suffered terrible sexual abuse, Charlotte arrived at Heathrow, pregnant and terrified, seven years ago.
Despite immediately giving herself up, she says, she was eventually sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for drug-related offences, of which she served just over half.
A little over two years since her release in September 2010, the 33-year-old is living happily in Hounslow with her six-year-old daughter and has just secured a new job as a cleaning supervisor for a train operator.
Charlotte is just one of many success stories from London Probation Trust's Hounslow unit, based in Cross Lances Road, Hounslow.
The team helps scores of ex-cons, from benefit cheats to hardened gang members, go straight each year, making the borough's streets that bit safer.
A key part of their task is getting those former criminals back into work, which statistics suggest makes them up to 70 per cent less likely to re-offend.
"Getting a job helps ex-offenders refresh their social horizons, by mixing with law-abiding citizens, and often improves their self-esteem," says Gibson Magwenzi (COR), employment development specialist at the Hounslow unit. It also means they're contributing to society rather than being a strain on the taxpayer's purse, with the cost of keeping an offender in prison working out at around £48,000 a year."
With jobs at a premium, and a criminal record still carrying a stigma for many employers, Mr Magwenzi and his colleagues must do everything possible to give ex-offenders an edge.
That includes organising training, brushing up CVs and working on that all-important body language, as well as advising on the tricky matter of how best to disclose that conviction.
"Most employers won't go on TV to say they take on former criminals," says Mr Magwenzi. "But ex-offenders tend to be more motivated than other job-seekers because they're so keen to transform their lives. Once we've explained that, employers are often more willing to give them a chance."
Charlotte finds it hard to express her gratitude for the team's support.
"I was really down when I first came here but unlike other people they never judged me and made me feel like a bad person," she says. "They understood my background and helped rebuild my confidence, for which I'm so grateful."
Andrea, a former shoplifter now pursuing a career as a hairdresser, echoes Charlotte's sentiments.
The 30-year-old mum-of-one was caught shoplifting twice in the space of a fortnight but, after support from Mr Magwenzi and co, is hoping to begin a hairdressing course soon.
"I was really struggling for money to support myself and my daughter but that's no excuse for what I did," she says. "I didn't want to come here at first because I thought it would be full of murderers but Gibson's been amazing.
"He showed me what I could achieve, told me where to look and helped me fill in forms. He's the only person who's genuinely tried to help me back into work."
Helping ex-cons into work is just part of the probation service's remit, along with organising counselling and drug rehabilitation, securing housing and generally persuading clients a life of crime is not the path to take.
Probation officer Kirsty Addicott believes the trust's role is often misunderstood.
"When I tell people what I do the usual response is 'I don't know how you can do that job," she says. "If anything, doing this job makes me feel safer because although the person sitting across from me might have committed a very serious offence there's always a reason, and understanding those reasons makes me feel I understand the world a bit more."
* some names in this article have been changed