The bodyguards looked nervous, but Ken Clarke was unfazed. "Morning," he boomed confidently as he entered the prison classroom. It was 1992 and Clarke, as the local MP and newly appointed home secretary, was paying a visit to HMP Nottingham. I was one of a dozen prisoners in the room discussing a charity marathon we were planning to run around the prison exercise yard. We shuffled uneasily and mumbled our responses awkwardly. We were all mandatory lifers and Clarke had the final say on whether any of us would ever be released.

© Guardian News & Media Ltd

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