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Don’t be bitter, just be better

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Although the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Indeterminate Prison Sentences (IPP’s) breached an individual’s human rights, many men and women remain in prison with no idea of when they’ll be able to leave. Max served over 12 years in prison after being given a two year tariff but he’s out now and starting to lead a new life.

Like so many others who’ve been locked up under an indeterminate sentence, I became very bitter and resentful. This was mostly because I knew that there was (and is) nothing ‘dangerous’ about me. I knew that if I posed a danger to anyone, I posed a danger only to myself.

Nobody was able to give me a true picture of what my sentence actually meant. I thought that with a tariff of 2 years, I would do 2 or even 3 years in prison and then get out. In total I spent 12 and a half years of my life in prison.

I won’t go into specifics, save to say I did not kill or injure anyone. Although it’s no measure of anything, my offence was not sexually related either, so I was surprised by the period of time I spent inside.

After several years I managed to get to an open prison where I secured a role that involved working with the public. I definitely began scratching my head at that point, I’d gone from being ‘dangerous’ to interviewing and helping members of the public with their own problems. I found this voluntary job really rewarding and through my own efforts (I’m definitely patting myself on the back and blowing my own trumpet here), my bitterness began to abate.

During the time I spent in prison, I’d always made the most of every opportunity given to me and, prior to release I became aware of a scheme being run collectively by the Cabinet Office, the Civil Service and the Ministry of Justice called the Going Forward into Employment programme. It’s main aim was to help ex-offenders overcome the barriers to finding employment that can be caused by a criminal record, by helping them gain employment in the Civil Service.

This was a truly fantastic opportunity for me; I could leave the past behind and start a meaningful career within the Civil Service.

I’ve left prison now and I’m currently working for the Prison and Probation Ombudsman where I’m involved in the investigation of complaints from those in custody. I work with a great group of people who investigate complaints honestly and impartially. They don’t have the lived experience I have but one of the benefits of the programme is allowing us all to learn from each other and see a situation from both sides.

I’m not necessarily where I want to be yet but thank goodness that I’m not where I once was.

By Max  (name changed to protect identity)

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