I had my first interview a week ago. It was good to speak to a real person and hear his story about his experience of being sentenced again and again. For this research, I am asking participants to bring something to the interview that symbolises their sentences for them. My interviewee last Tuesday chose an ABBA song, The Visitors, and had copied it out for me. I don’t want to show his handwriting, and am not sure I can just copy and paste song lyrics, but they are here.
Like in the song, he said the impact of his sentences and being on license, was that he felt a never-ending dread, and that life as he knew it could be taken away from him at any point. One of his most telling comments related to the line where ‘the books the paintings and the furniture’ are described as ‘loved so dearly’. He said he also felt this way about his possessions, because, after several sentences, the people he had loved were no longer around. Now his ‘furniture’ was all there was left to care about.
If repeated sentences have this effect on life, sucking it empty of meaningful relationships and filling it with dread, it is hard to see how people can ‘turn their lives around’. This is hard enough with the support of loved ones, and motivation to do so. My interviewee, like some of the ex-long-term prisoners in my last project, said he might as well be back in prison, and therefore might as well re-offend.