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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Turning it around

Introducing a new series with ex-prisoners who have turned their lives around and now work in the criminal justice sector telling their own stories.

New Blog Series

Earlier this year I did a reader survey with subscribers to this blog. One of the questions I asked was which groups of people would you like to hear interviewed on a new criminal justice podcast I’m planning. Over 60% were interested in hearing about ex-offenders who had turned their lives around and made good.

Well the podcast is still at the planning stage, but I thought I’d get cracking on the idea of featuring the individual stories of people who had pointed their lives in another direction and moved away from crime.

Obviously, there are millions of people in this category; so to give the series a little focus, I decided to invite offenders who had gone straight and now work, in one way or another, in the criminal justice sector.

I’m delighted that a number of people have accepted the invitation to take part and starting next week, every Saturday I’ll be sharing their stories on the blog.

Since everyone’s story is unique, I’ve not been prescriptive at all. I asked just four things of every contributor:

  1. Tell you own story in 500-1,000 words
  2. Include your biggest challenges
  3. Please share any key lessons you’ve learnt
  4. Provide a profile pic

It may be that I waive even the first of these requests if someone wants to tell their stories via a short vlog.


To be honest, I’m more than a little excited about the new series. The main purpose of the blog, as regular readers will know, is to keep you up-to-date with the latest developments in the criminal justice and substance misuse sectors. Inevitably, this means that a large proportion of content is demoralising to say the least (even if it is important to know). In the last year, common themes on the blog have been:

So, I’m looking forwards to a series which celebrates success and all the human attributes which go with it — resourcefulness, persistence and sheer determination to overcome the odds.

In 2017, it seems like we could all do with a bit more inspiration.

The series kicks off next Saturday with Ben Gunn’s story. As many of you will know, “Prisoner Ben” was the first British prisoner to publish (legally) a blog from custody.

Sentenced to life with a 10 year recommended tariff as a 14 year-old, Ben eventually served 32 years before being released in 2012 and picking up a new career as a criminal justice consultant, campaigner and commentator.

Find out more next week.

5 thoughts on “Turning it around”

  1. Hi Russell

    As an ex-offender myself, I naturally follow interesting posts such as yours. I appreciate that THIS series of Blogs is all about people who have left prison and now `work` in the CJS, but respectfully what about all those people who had real jobs before their troubles ?

    I am not taking anything away from those who campaign for reform and improvements, but can you perhaps consider more real live stories from those who were once employed and now find themselves almost `unemployable`.

    Suggest you read the new book by Wendy Perriam who looks at how a professional person [convicted of manslaughter] has to deal with life after prison.

    Looking forward to your new articles and glad I found your website.

  2. I asked just four things of every contributor:… 4. Provide a profile pic.

    For some, this is effectively impossible if they value their personal safety and the safety of their families.

    For some, those who would otherwise “work, in one way or another, in the criminal justice sector” is made effectively impossible. Despite being able to offer an especially unique perspective that could have a significant impact on curbing the sorts of crimes for which they themselves have been convicted.

    Of course I am referring to those who have been convicted of a “sex crime” involving children. In the society we live in, they are denied the opportunity of ever turning their lives around; regardless of whether they commit to never again crossing the line that brought their conviction. Unlike any other type of crime.

    Nonetheless, like Henry – Looking forward to your new articles and glad I found your website.

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