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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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  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below.
  • Information – We have practical self-help information on leaving prison.
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to leaving prison on our online forum.

The smartest thing I’ve learnt since my conviction is that I don’t need a man to be successful

Lisa is the first to admit that although she didn’t set out to break the law herself, she was happy to turn a blind eye to what her husband was involved in. Her time in prison made her realise that she was a stronger person than she’d thought she was and, her success has been even sweeter because she’s achieved it on her own.


When I left school at the age of 18, I suppose I would have been described as a bit ‘geeky’ or naive. I’d never had a boyfriend, didn’t smoke or drink and thought ‘weed’ was just something that grew in the garden.

Although I’d taken a few GCE’s, I hadn’t thought about going to college or university. I just wanted a job to tied me over until I got married and had babies.

My lack of experience with men meant that I fell for the first guy I met. He was an insurance broker at the company where I was a secretary. We were married after 6 months and had two children within 3 years. Had we taken longer to get to know each other we would have realised that we weren’t that well suited; neither of us were happy in the marriage and before long the verbal and physical abuse started.

It took me a while to pluck up the courage to leave but I did, taking my children to live with my parents. Over the next few years, I had a succession of relationships with unsuitable men; one was an alcoholic, one was married and one constantly cheated on me and was always borrowing money he never paid back.

Then around 2002, I met Ian. He was nothing like anybody I’d ever met – kind, considerate, a non-smoker and teetotal. He had his own business, own house, brand new car and he spoilt me and the kids rotten.

When he asked me to marry him and the children and I moved in with him, I thought I’d met my sole-mate. Before long, I started working with him in his property business – it seemed a sensible thing to do; I wanted to earn my own money and he wanted a business partner.

It was only after I’d started working with him that I realised that some of his business dealings were not as ethical or legal as they should be. When I challenged him about them he convinced me that there were loopholes in the law which all businesses benefited from. If I’m honest, I knew what he was doing was wrong but life was good and I didn’t want to rock the boat.

When he set up another company solely in my name, I thought it was odd but he convinced me that it was just for tax purposes. What he meant was – it was a tax dodge.

I won’t go into too much detail but needless to say, it didn’t end well. Ian (and I) had become part of a huge fraud, Ian was a totally willing participant and although I didn’t know what was going on, I can’t say that I was an innocent bystander. I chose to ignore the warning signs for the sake of a good life.

When the case got to court, we both received long prison sentences (8 years each). The final day in court was the last time I saw Ian; as far as I was concerned I was done with men, I had no plans to get involved with one ever again.

Whilst I was in prison I was left in no doubt that finding work with a fraud conviction would be difficult. I took advantage of every employability course I could and signed up for self-employment and business funding programmes. During the last year of my prison sentence I was able to go to an open prison and I got myself an admin job working for a media company. Sadly it wasn’t something that I was able to continue with on release as it was too far from home.

As it got nearer to my release date I concentrated on building up a network of contacts. They all knew my background and the work I’d been doing both inside the prison and out. I sent my CV to as many of these contacts as I could, confident that I stood more chance of getting a job with one of these than an employer who knew nothing about me.

I’m pleased to say that the time and effort paid off and I was invited to four or five interviews which resulted in two job offers which I had to choose between. The job I picked didn’t pay the most but on balance, I thought it had better career prospects and would also give me the opportunity to utilise some of the marketing skills I’d learnt at the media company. That’s a complete change of mindset to how I’d been prior to prison; previously I’d definitely have gone for the job with the most money but after living on £10 a week your priorities do change.

In the short time I’ve been working, I’ve been given a promotion and a small pay rise and, at my recent appraisal, it was agreed that my employer would fund a marketing course for me. I really feel that I’m making a valuable contribution to my employer’s business and my ideas and suggestions are really taken seriously. Life’s better than it’s ever been before and importantly, I’ve achieved it without any help from a man.

By Lisa (name changed to protect identity)


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The difficulty trying to rehabilitate and reintegrate miles from home.

Edward was apprehensive about having to go to an Approved Premises, also known as a ‘hostel’. What he’d read about them had been far from encouraging but in Edward’s case, the hostel was also a long way from home making it difficult to re-build his relationship with his wife, family and friends.


After serving 10 years in prison (2/3rd’s of a 15 year sentence) I was due for automatic release on a 15 month licence last month. During my entire incarceration I have maintained my innocence of the historic allegations for which I was convicted at the age of 69. I’m now 79 with serious health problems which I didn’t have before I was sent to prison.

As I was nearing my release date, my Offender Manager stated in his report that I would need to reside in Approved Premises (a hostel) which were just a bus ride away from my home. This would have been absolutely fine as it would have meant that I’d still have had the support of my wife and friends as well as access to my GP, dentist and optician. In fact there would be very little change to what was in place prior to my going to prison.

My wife and I own our own home and we’d envisaged that we would still be able to be together for most of the day and that I would return to the hostel each night. This, unfortunately, was not to be.

On the day before my release, I was asked to attend a meeting where I was told what my licence conditions were going to be. I was horrified to discover that the Approved Premises that I thought I was going to had been changed and I would now be staying in one which was over 50 miles from my home.

On signing my release papers, I was told that I had to be there at 3pm despite not being able to leave the prison until 11am. It was made very clear to me that if I failed to get there on time, then I would be in breach of my licence and subject to recall. I’m certain I wouldn’t have got to the hostel on time (or even known how to get there) by myself. My wife (also in her 70’s and not confident in driving on motorways) drove to the prison, waited over 2 hours for me to be released and then drove me to the hostel. It was a dreadful journey, both because of the volume of motorway traffic and the fact that we had no idea where we were going.

On our eventual arrival at the hostel (only 40 minutes late) my wife wasn’t even allowed through the door but had to get straight back in the car and do the return journey alone.

That was on the Tuesday. On Thursday and again on Saturday, my wife travelled to the hostel again as she was really worried about me. This time she came by train to avoid the long drive but with two trains to catch it’s still a 2.5 hour journey each way and, of course, we have to consider the cost. She’s not going to be able to do this too often.

So here I am, stuck 50 miles from my home, where I don’t know my way around and have managed to get lost several times. Considering the Probation Service seem to view me as being a ‘risk to the public’ how does wandering aimlessly around a strange city, full of places that I’m instructed to avoid without knowing where they are, reduce risk or help integrate me back into society? If they are so worried about the risk I pose, why aren’t I able to live in a hostel where I can keep in touch with my wife, or safer still, live at home?

Probation Service Instructions state that licence conditions should be:

Preventative not punitive, necessary, proportionate and reasonable.”

I can’t see that this has been applied in my case or how my present situation benefits anyone at all.

In her final annual report, Dame Glenys Stacey, the outgoing Chief Inspector of Probation, has described the current models as ‘irredeemably flawed‘ and recommends that the Probation Service should, in future, meet the

Reasonable needs of individuals under probation supervision.”

I absolutely agree.

By Edward (name changed to protect identity)


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  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • Information – We have practical self-help information on leaving prison
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to prison on our online forum.

Although prison affected my mental health, I want to stay part of the criminal justice system

Toni was determined that on her release from prison she was going to turn her back on the criminal justice system. However, as she later discovered, the impact of her prison sentence meant that she’d go on to use her experiences in a much more positive way. 


When I finished my sentence and left prison, I was determined to put that part of my life well and truly behind me. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go back to my old job but I’d been planning for my release and had lots of ideas about what I was going to do.

During my time in prison, I’d come across lots of people who, after going to prison themselves, wanted to continue to have some link with the criminal justice system and started working for organisations in this sector. That wasn’t for me – I wanted to get as far away from it all as possible.

In many ways I achieved what I set out to do. I reconnected with some ‘non-prison’ friends, got myself somewhere to live, started dating and got a job.

Outwardly, I was doing okay but inside I was suffering. There were obviously reasons behind why I had offended and whilst in prison, I’d started to work with a counsellor to address these issues but, as soon as I left prison, I buried them once again. My ‘non-prison’ friends had no idea what prison had been like and I found more and more that I needed to talk about it, to try and come to terms with it. I started to drink more and more to help me deal with my problems but of course, this only made things worse.

The drinking meant that I was regularly late for work and when I was there, I couldn’t concentrate. On reflection, my boss put up with me for much longer than he should have done but I eventually lost my job and couldn’t pay my rent. One night out of desperation I contacted a friend I’d been in prison with and asked for help.

She was amazing, she gave me a bed and board and expected nothing in return. All she wanted was for me to get well and during that time I came to realise how much prison had affected me. The shock of having to adapt to prison life; being exposed to a very different culture to my own; the lack of personal choice and my diminished sense of self-worth. I came to understand that very few people will be unchanged or unscathed by their prison experience.

I count myself lucky that I was able to recognise that I needed help. Prison had made me anxious and depressed and I started to worry that the deterioration in my mental health could put me at risk of re-offending.

Although I didn’t spend long in prison, it had a massive impact on me. The help I received from my friends and doctor was amazing and I’m now in a good place. Prison affected my mental health for the first time, and I can’t imagine what it must be like going into prison with pre-existing conditions; from what I saw, there was very little help available.

Ironically, I now work for the probation service on a reducing re-offending programme specifically for women. It seems as though I’m going to be one of those people with a criminal record that just can’t break free from the criminal justice system.

By Toni (name changed to protect identity)


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  • Comment – Let us know what your thoughts are by commenting below
  • Information – We have some practical information on leaving prison
  • Discuss this issue– There are some interesting discussions related to this issue on our online forum.

The code to success is to make the most of every opportunity presented – how I set up my website development business

As Michael has discovered, a criminal record doesn’t have to mean the end of your working life but the chance to start a new career that you may never have had the opportunity to consider before.


18 weeks ago I was released from prison – a prison sentence that has changed my life.

Life in prison is extremely mundane with every possible job being pretty much the same. Mind numbing boredom. I was transferred to a Cat C prison with 7 months remaining on my sentence. I went through the normal intake procedure and then was given an application form with the same old jobs and courses. As I like to keep busy and I’m a curious person by nature, I’ve probably worked in nearly every job possible and completed many of the courses on offer. However, on this particular form I immediately noticed my two options; a tiling course which I hadn’t done yet and a course I’d never seen before called Code 4000.

I was intrigued. I knew the tiling course would land me a job upon release but I couldn’t help wondering what Code 4000 was. I asked a member of staff on the wing who said:

Some sort of computer thing”

I’ve always been interested in coding but never had the chance nor the time to pursue it. Anyway, I called my partner and asked her which I should choose. She instantly replied “that’s a silly question, do the coding”. So I did.

Code 4000 was refreshing from day one. The moment I walked into the office space I felt like I’d walked out of prison. The space was inviting, intriguing, bright and open. They even had a small area to relax when the coding got too much. I was truly amazed. I knew instantly that I’d made the right choice.

The first day I was given a fancy desk, computer and two large monitors. My initial task was to build a small gaming app (built for 7-year olds) to see if I could overcome problems on my own. This introduced me to the basics of coding. Once I’d learnt the basic building blocks I moved on, learning a wealth of information from the basics of computer science to HTML and CSS. By this time my head had started to spill over. I hit a wall of information and didn’t know what to do. The best advice I got from one of my tutors was simple “Don’t try and learn it all, learn the basics then choose the path that suits you”. At the time I remember thinking “I have no idea what that even means”.

I eventually found my feet and got my teeth into some in-depth learning. I started making apps and websites. Then we got to do commercial work with charities where we received actual commercial feedback from designers and clients. It may sound a little daft but learning in prison is a great surrounding. No phones ringing, no emails to distract you. Focus is the key and of course it distracts you from the harsh environment.

After I was released, I set up my company, Pink Umbrella Studio. I hit the ground running wanting to make a difference.

Our main focus is to make websites for charities at absolute minimum cost and take away the stress of building a website. A portion of the websites we build go back through the Code 4000 programme so people in prison get commercial feedback and can build a personal portfolio which will increase their chances of employment upon release.

My company has a simple business model – help charities, help offenders and lower the re-offending rates.

If you have a project which you think we can help with then please visit our website.

By Michael

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Changing lives for the better through the power of football


This story has been adapted from the original which was published on website and we’d like to thank Pete Bell for giving us his permission to use it.


I’d just come out of Lincoln prison after serving three-months of a six-month sentence. I was 26 years old and had always been trouble free, but I’d got into a relationship which had spiralled out of control – central to that was a custody battle. I was drinking heavily, got into crime, and my son had died during this time. My world had ended and after my release, I was unemployed.

I can still remember the turning point now. After seeing an advert at the Jobcentre, I enrolled on a training programme with Notts County’s ‘Football in the Community’ scheme and after spending six months doing my FA Preliminary Coaching Course, I knew it was exactly what I wanted; I’d found what I should be doing.

I stopped drinking, was crime-free and embraced education and here I am 22 years later with 18 qualifications, significant work experience and having travelled extensively as part of my work. I didn’t start coaching until I was 29, so I had to play catch-up but I’d say that was the age when I first really discovered education and how it could change lives for the better.

I’ve now been an FA coach mentor, working across Leicestershire and Derbyshire with various grassroots coaches and clubs, for the last four years after spending the previous 14 years as a coach, educator and delivering FA Level One qualifications. I’ve also worked in further education and recently, university football.

Earlier this year, I visited HMP Oakwood in Wolverhampton to do a bespoke coaching course for inmates to give them a flavour of what it means to be a coach.

I’ve always felt that football clubs have never done enough in prisons, and I wanted to do some more work in that area. With my background, it was brilliant for me to be able to spend one day a week at HMP Oakwood for seven weeks, working with 16 guys. The first thing I said to them was:

I was once sat where you are”

I felt proud to be able to say that, given how far I’ve come in the years since I was released. That got them onside straight away and I went on to work with the guys discussing the role of coach, the qualifications and opportunities that are on offer on the outside.

I have just set up a project called ‘Step Out, Stay Out’ and with the support of the Ministry of Justice and my local MP, I’d like to deliver coaching and training in more prisons. It’s a massive passion of mine to change the stigma around people who have made mistakes and perhaps haven’t had the support when they come out of prison and end up in that vicious circle of re-offending.

Through mentoring and football education, I believe we can help people to get the same sort of opportunities that I was offered to make a positive impact on the lives of others in the same situation and also improve the number and standard of coaching across England.

I’m very open to hear from any individuals or groups who may be able to enhance my passion to help make a difference. Thank you to all who have helped me, it’s been tough and is still tough but I’m not deterred.

By Pete Bell – FA Coach Mentor


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A clear cut career choice – training to become a barber whilst in prison

Despite receiving many convictions as a young man, it wasn’t until Terry received a 12 year sentence for armed robbery that he made the decision to turn his life around. For the first time, he was given opportunities, advice and support that he’d never been given before and is now looking forward to helping others make something of their lives.



When you start to read this I hope you don’t think that I’m one of those grumpy old men. I’m really not.

You see things were different when I was a kid. Parents today encourage their children to be anything they want to be. They sign them up for all sorts of clubs and spend time driving them here there and everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great. It wasn’t like that when I was younger. My parents made it quite clear that ‘our sort’ never amounted to much so my aspirations were quite low. My mum and dad weren’t uncaring, all my friends parents were exactly the same, we were just kids – to be seen and not heard.

Some of my mates did ok for themselves. They got jobs in factories, warehouses and on building sites but I wanted more. I just needed somebody to give me a bit of direction in my life. Sadly this came from a group of older lads who had what I wanted – a pocket full of money – who introduced me to a life of crime. It wasn’t anything serious to start with, a bit of burglary here and there but once you’re caught up in that way of life there’s no way out and the offences got more serious along with the punishments. What started off as a fine went onto become a suspended sentence until eventually I was convicted of an armed robbery and got a 12 year prison sentence.

I’d served short prison sentences before; they were a bit of an occupational hazard and despite the prison trying to put me on courses to improve my chances of getting into work, I always knew that when I was released I’d go back to my old ways. It was the only ‘job’ I knew. But that all changed when I got that 12 year stretch. My girlfriend had just had a baby and suddenly I wasn’t around to support them either financially or emotionally. Imagine knowing that your son would be starting school before you got to be a proper father to him. He’d either want nothing to do with me or he’d become a waster just like me – what a choice.

And so I made a decision. I’d try to change. I’d do the courses the prison offered me and start to plan for a future. I didn’t know whether it would include my girlfriend and son but I knew that I couldn’t carry on as I had been.

I moved prison many times and did loads of educational courses and I knew pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to be one of those guys that went into prison without an ‘O’ level and came out with a PhD. Study like this just wasn’t for me and I started to get quite disheartened until I moved to a prison up North which was set up to do a lot of practical courses – welding, carpentry, painting etc. I tried to get on the welding and carpentry courses but they were both over-subscribed with long waiting lists. Instead my Personal Officer put me on a barbering course!! What a joke. I’ve got to admit that I really threw my toys out of the pram – after all, I was an armed robber not a hairdresser!!

It didn’t matter how much fuss I made, I was on that course and that’s what I was going to be doing unless I wanted to be shipped out. So off I went on the first day to ‘hairdressing school’. The lady that ran the course, Lucy, may have looked proper girlie but let me tell you, she was something else. She wasn’t just a fantastic tutor but she took a real interest in every one of her ‘boys’. Not just what was going on in the prison but what was happening in our lives outside as well. She was firm but fair and for the first time ever I loved learning and found that I had a natural talent. I became Lucy’s star pupil and she pushed me more and more, teaching me how to do a flat top and graduated haircuts. I started to shave intricate pictures in the lads hair and whenever the barbers shop was open, I was always in demand. At last it seemed as though I’d found my calling – this was what I wanted to do when I left prison.

I was enjoying the course so much that the rest of my time in prison flew by. I knew that I wanted to be a barber when I left prison but couldn’t see anybody employing me. So I spoke to Lucy and she suggested that I think about becoming self-employed. She gave me some information about organisations that funded ex-offenders to set up a business and got me on a course in prison about self-employment. Before I’d left prison I’d written a business plan and made contact with several organisations who were willing to consider funding my new venture.

To cut a long story short, within 8 months of leaving prison I was in business. I managed to find a small shop at a very low rent and got some funding to pay six months rent in advance and buy some equipment. The shop took off really quickly and before long I needed to employ another barber. Who better than one of the guys from prison that I’d trained with. He wanted a job and I wanted somebody that I could trust. It’s worked out really well for both of us and I’m now in the process of working with our local open prison to offer a couple of guys training positions with us. There’s a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy involved but I’m determined to make it happen. Prison was the first time that anybody had taken an interest in me and given me a leg up and I’m determined to do the same for somebody else.

By Terry (name changed to protect identity)


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Employment embargo – Why does the prison think employers are ‘unsuitable’ and refuse to let me work?

Having worked his way through the prison system, Mo is struggling to understand why the prison service continues to refuse him permission to work for certain employers without explaining their reasons why. 


During the time I’ve spent in prison, I’ve had a variety of ‘jobs’ – sorting rubbish, working in the print shop, even packing headphones. The worst part of being in prison is the boredom so being out of your cell and working helps to break up the day.

As I went through the prison system I believed that a move to an open prison would enable me to start doing ‘normal’ things – going home every now and again to see my family and get a job. Having served a long sentence it was important to me that I was able to start reintegrating into society whilst still being ‘protected’ by the prison.

As soon as I moved to open conditions, the prison were really on the ball, sorting out my home leave within a couple of months and setting out opportunities for work. Having been told that I needed to do a certain amount of voluntary work before I was able to apply for paid work, I asked the officer in charge of that department to put my name forward for anything and I was soon volunteering at a local charity shop.

I can’t tell you how amazing it made me feel. It gave me a reason to get up in the morning and really boosted my confidence and self-esteem. My work colleagues were great and had no problem with the fact that I was in prison – a couple of the ‘girls’ (they’re both in their late 70’s) even brought me home made lunches as they were worried that I wasn’t eating properly.

Life was great and I had no reason to believe that the next step into paid work wouldn’t be just as easy. Sadly this was not the case. If you don’t know the system for getting paid work whilst in prison then put simply, once you’ve been offered a job, the prison have to carry out checks to ensure that you’re suitable to be released daily to go to a paid job and that the company you’ll be working for are reputable and suitable. If all’s good, then the prison provide you with a licence which allows you to leave the prison on a temporary basis to go to work.

To date, I’ve been offered three jobs, all working as a junior mechanic in the car trade. Although the prison are happy for me to do this kind of work, every one of the employers has been turned down by the prison as ‘not suitable’. The prison won’t tell me why and more worryingly, they won’t tell the employers either. Without knowing the reasons behind their decision, I’m unable to address any concerns the prison has. The employers just seem to assume that I haven’t been honest with them and believe they’ve had a lucky escape.

Please don’t think I’m the only one that this is happening to – I’m not. Not a day goes by without somebody on my wing moaning about the loss of a job because an employer has been rejected and I find it hard to believe that there’s something wrong with all of them. It’s hard enough finding work with a criminal record and I know that one of the company’s that offered me a job only did so on the basis that they had the security of going back to the prison if I caused them any problems. I wasn’t worried about this as I knew that I’d be able to prove myself to them in the time I had left in prison.

I don’t have a date for release yet but it’s probably at least 18 months away. Going out to work during the time I’ve got left will enable me to save money so I can pay back the friends and family who’ve helped me whilst I’ve been inside. Knowing that on the day I leave prison I’ll have a job to go to is one less thing for me to worry about as I learn to live as a free man again.

I continue to volunteer at the charity shop and try to stay motivated but some days are harder than others. On the days when I’m feeling down and fed up one of my ‘girls’ will bring me a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive – I suppose I’d miss that if I was working in a garage!

By Mo (name changed to protect identity)


Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • Information – We have practical self-help on leaving prison
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to working out whilst in prison on our online forum.

Struggling to find work with a life licence

Despite his conviction being almost 20 years ago, Ed explains how employers still judge him on the person he was then and not the person he is now.



In 1999 I was tried and convicted of murder. I had never been in trouble before and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I will never re-offend. A moment of complete and utter madness led me to doing something that I never thought possible.

In prison I put my time to good use and completed many offending behaviour and vocational training courses which I thought would help me to gain employment on my release from prison. How wrong was I?

It’s been 3 years now since I was released and apart from some badly paid agency work, I’ve still not been able to secure full time employment. Yet all I heard in prison was how I’d done my time, gained new skills and knowledge and how prisoners were given second chances – well I’m still waiting for mine.

I know that many people will struggle to understand why I did what I did. At the end of the day there is no worse offence than taking a person’s life even if you did it to protect your family. But I’ve served a considerable prison sentence and all I want now is to move on.

I don’t want to be a burden on the state. I want to work and pay my bills just like everybody else. But I can’t because people still judge me on the person that I was almost 20 years ago – is that right? I may be on a life licence but there are no restrictions on what job I can do or where I can work, so I’m pretty flexible. I’m fit and active and prepared to work hard, i just need that one person to give me a break.

I’ve got a great fiancee who’s fully supported me since we’ve been together and I’m incredibly lucky to have her in my life. She encourages and motivates me and we’d love to get married but because of the work situation it’s impossible right now.

I’m a strong person and try to keep positive but some days are harder than others. Although I have no intention of re-offending (I’ve spent too long in prison), I can understand why people do. If you’re not allowed to fully engage in society, then for many the only option is to rebel against it.

The courses I did in prison certainly helped me get my head in the right place and prepare me for release but what do they matter if you can’t get a job at the end of it? I heard somebody say that this was the equivalent of training a football team for the World Cup and then turning up to find there’s no football.

Well I’ve no intention of retiring from the game yet, I’m just looking for a great manager to give me a trial.

By Ed (name changed to protect identity)


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Could you help somebody cope with prison life? Paid work opportunity – deadline 30th June

The Samaritans are looking to recruit some extraordinary people to run workshops in two London prisons. Have you got what it takes? Find out more below. But be quick – deadline 30th June 2017. 

Many people go into prison not knowing what to expect. That’s why the Samaritans and HMPPS are running a six-month pilot project in two London prisons.

They are recruiting ex-prisoners to run workshops for people who are new to prison. The two-hour workshops will focus on how to stay emotionally well and cope during a prison sentence. Samaritans are recruiting up to 15 people to run the sessions and Group Leaders will be paid (£120 per session). They’ll receive full training and support too.

Here’s what one person who has benefited from being a Samaritan had to say:

“I’ll never forget my first night in prison. I felt vulnerable and unsafe. My family, my friends, the people I loved, seemed a million miles away.

I didn’t think I was going to get through it. Who could I trust? How should I behave? And what, if anything, was going to be waiting for me at the end of my time in jail? I had blown my chances and it looked as if my life was going to be all downhill from here.

I would never have admitted it though – I was a tough guy starting a five-year sentence, and didn’t want to show any sign of weakness. I needed a mask to hide behind, and I made sure it stayed in place, I felt my life depended on it.

I kept my head down over the next few weeks but felt as low as I’d ever been. Prison is very noisy and every time you think you might fall asleep something wakes you up. And then you remember where you are.

The turning point came when one of the prison officers talked to me about the Samaritans Prison Listener scheme. He said I’d be good for it. I was sceptical, I didn’t know what it was but he said it could help me, as well as giving me a chance to help other people. A Listener came to see me later that day, and he talked to me about what was involved, how he had found the training, and how he helped other prisoners. It was the first proper conversation I had in prison.

Becoming a Listener and learning new skills really helped me. Not just inside, but in my relationships with my friends and family, as well as helping other prisoners find a way through their problems. I have learned no-one is invincible and we all put on an act of being tough. Dropping the mask was a relief for me in the end, and my training has helped me see the beginning of a different life ahead.”

If you have been in prison and especially if you have been a Listener, you can find out more about this paid opportunity here.

The deadline for applications is 30th June 2017.

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