Read the article linked to this case studyBad for business: Defence lawyer Iain Smith on cutting crime with compassion

Six years ago Kim Mcguigan was standing in court hoping that she would be sent to prison.

Living a chaotic lifestyle and worried about the impact it was having on her young son, to her, being locked up seemed like the best option.

Having been made homeless at 14, she had spent years in a seemingly never-ending cycle of homeless units, binge drinking and getting into trouble with the police.

She was also in what she describes as a “toxic relationship” and could see no way out of her situation apart from a jail term.

But the sheriff in court that day decided to give the young mum one last chance to turn her life around and gave her a community sentence. It was not the outcome she was hoping for.

“At that point in time my life was really chaotic, I was struggling to do the right thing for my wee boy and I thought prison was the answer,” she said.

“I was ready, I thought ‘right I’ll go to prison’, it was honestly either that or die, those were the only ways I could see out of it.”

Read moreOne in ten Scots children experience multiple traumatic life events such as divorce, abuse or neglect says Edinburgh study

Ms Mcguigan, who describes her upbringing as chaotic, admits that at first she tried to breach the order so that she would be sent to prison, but a turning point finally came when her son started primary school.

She said: “On his first day of school I saw him reach the wee queue to go in and there was just this feeling inside me I can’t explain, it was like a drive to change and I knew I had to go and get help.

“If I didn’t get help then where did that leave that wee boy? It would be him probably repeating the same stuff that I did and that just wasn’t an option.

“That day I made an appointment with my social worker and I started engaging and I got away from the relationship.”

Ms Mcguigan, now 33, tried to get help but found that because she wasn’t an addict and didn’t have mental health problems, there was very little support available to her.

However, she soon became aware of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (SVRU) and was assigned a mentor with a similar background to her.

It was at this point that she learned about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the trauma they can cause and finally felt she had an answer.

“I knew I was troubled, I just didn’t know what was wrong with me or why I kept getting caught up in the same cycle that I had been for years,” she said.

“I just kept coming up with nothing but as soon as I started speaking about traumatic experiences, for the first time I felt I could make sense of what was going on inside of me and I felt like I could get better.”

Read moreWhen ACE isn’t high but low in great game of life

Ms Mcguigan now realises that the community sentence she received enabled her to get the help she needed, but only after she “fell through the system” several times.

“Up until that point the only side of justice I knew was getting picked up in a police car, getting put in the cells, going to court, getting your sentence and then going out and doing it all over again,” she said.

“Everybody I got brought up with was the same, there was poverty, addiction, domestic violence everywhere because people were experiencing the same kind of things.”

She now welcomes the move towards more community sentences and support for offenders like her, rather than a system that simply punishes.

Ms Mcguigan said: “You can’t punish people out of addiction, you can’t punish people out of mental health, you can’t punish people to change, you have to offer support.

“And honestly, doing the work on yourself, it’s so dark going back to those places, those memories - that’s a sentence on its own.”

Ms McGuigan is now a Policy Apprentice with Community Justice Scotland and is using her experience to help others.

She and her colleague James Docherty are now leading the way in the ACEs movement and are the brains behind a major conference - ACEs to Assets - due to take place next month. The pair will co-host the event, which will bring together education, health , justice and care partners to look at what can be done to combat aces and trauma, with key note speech from world renowned trauma and addiction specialist,  Dr Gabor Mate.

For Ms Mcguigan, this new chapter has allowed her to better her life beyond recognition, and she is determined to use this chance to help people still living in chaos.

She said: “When you look at people out there in the community who are addicted to drugs, who are homeless, something happened to those people and unless we get to the root of what happened to them then we’re just going to keep making the same mistakes.

“This is what the ACEs movement is about. We want people’s lives to get better, we want our communities to get better, we want Scotland to get better.”