Call for Lived Experience Blog

Published 26/05/2023
Author(s) Anton Roberts, Pete Traynor & Kevin Wong


A Series of Voices: Twenty Years on From “Making Good”

It has been over twenty years since Shadd Maruna’s (2001) now iconic work Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild Their Lives. In his book, he argued powerfully for the impact of self-narrative in connecting us to our past, present and future actions. He proposed  that a sense of self and narrative was crucial to anyone, but even more salient to those with the label of “criminal” and was essential as a force of personal change that could lead to desistance. According to Maruna, prisoners typically followed what he theorised as a “redemptive script” as a way of making sense of their chaotic life journey through the criminal justice system. Famously, mapping out a desistance trajectory – some examples included “the real me” where the individual would reflect and argue that the more positive aspects to their journey had been missed due to such a focus on their offence. Another aspect was “the I, the me, and the it” whereby when recalling their criminological histories particular details such as the environmental factors which fell outside of their control were intentionally emphasised as the main cause of the crime being committed. Such a technique would allow for the defusing of guilt and shame and thus create the positive effect of creating distance from future crime allowing the individual to criminologically move on, “it happened to me, as opposed to because of me”. Additionally, there was the stage of “Recovering Wisdom”, which was the creation of insights from their lived experiences of the criminal justice system, reported as a way of transforming their prior offences into something compellingly positive, and was often used as a way of obtaining a new form of purpose, a means of using their experiential knowledge to prevent others from making similar mistakes

Currently, criminal justice policy in the United Kingdom (UK) and other jurisdictions has squarely focused on the correct management of risk in our prison populations and community and the use of standardised desistance programmes based on the foundations of ‘what works’, the new edifice of evidence-based practice (EVP).  The proliferation of cognitive behavioural programmes that challenges ‘problematic thinking’ exemplify this.  There has never been a better time to reflect on Maruna’s Making Good and once again question where this leaves desistance, growth and the individual? The question remains as to how much of the theoretical underpinning still resonates with the stories of people with convictions today.  Exploring the Identity and meaning of crime, to try and understand the unique circumstances that lead up to the committing of an offence – to create a biographical journey from criminality to desistance.

In this blog series, we invite narratives from formally incarcerated voices or those who have served community orders – individuals that have in many ways become the living embodiment of the ideals of rehabilitation. Men and women who have committed crimes, served their sentences, and gone on to benefit their communities. In some cases, perhaps becoming educators in their own right, using their own lived experience to reach out to others at risk of incarceration. The blogs can take different forms but we invite experts by their own experiences to reflect on and respond to the following questions to help frame their insights.

  1. In your own words what were the factors that led up to your prison or non-custodial sentence?
  2. When reflecting on who you were when you were first sentenced, how is that person different to who you are now?
  3. Many people with convictions who have been to prison and/or through the criminal justice system struggle to readjust back to ‘normal’ civic life, what was the secret to your success?
  4. Could you talk about what you did after your release/end of sentence e.g. new career etc?

The final entry in this series will be a thematic synthesis of these personal accounts by the blog series editors – making comparison with Maruna’s redemptive script and the wider desistance literature, to discover to what extent they still align with the criminological notions of ‘making good’ in one’s community.

We intend to publish these blogs as soon as they are ready on a rolling basis over the next 12 months.

Please note that authors may write under a pseudonym.

If you are interested in writing and publishing a blog in this lived experience series contact us at by Friday 30th June 2023.

We look forward to hearing from you soon,

A how to guide to writing a blog can be found by HERE

Anton Roberts and Pete Traynor – Blog Series Editors

Kevin Wong – Journal Co-Editor



Maruna, S. (2007). Making good : how ex-convicts reform and rebuild their lives. American Psychological Association.