Many people think they know what sentences mean. Judges, the police, the general public all have an opinion on what prison, probation or fines are for. But really, only people who have experienced sentences know what they mean. For example, the criminal justice system sees two sentences of 5 months imprisonment as the same, but what they mean to the people serving them depends on so many things, including their life – their past, present and future.
This site came out of a three year research project, Lives Sentenced, which was funded by the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council). I interviewed many men and women about the meaning of their (prison) sentences, but realised that it is not easy to give anything meaning just like that. Ask me what the meaning of having children or the last year is, and I would struggle. I therefore decided it was important to also approach the question in another way, one that gives people time to reflect and lets them decide in what format to answer. This site is an attempt to do this. To invite those who have been sentenced by the criminal justice system to express the meaning of this experience. This is no longer research, though. I will not include anything posted here in any of my academic work. Instead, I hope the contributions will stand alone and together to encourage people and society to think a bit more about what it is like to be sentenced and compare its meaning to what it ought to be.