A 35-year-old who has spent almost half his life behind bars after receiving an indefinite sentence for trying to stealing a coat and mobile phone is trying to adapt to normal life after being freed from jail.
Danny Weatherson was just 17 when he was convicted of two attempted robberies.
He was given an Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence, a type of indefinite custodial punishment which has since been scrapped.
The judge at Newcastle Crown Court recommended he serve just over 15 months before applying for parole. However, he ended up spending 17 years behind bars before the parole board finally agreed in June 2023 that he could be freed.
After being released from HMP Northumberland on Thursday 21 September, Mr Weatherson has spoken of his struggles to adapt to normal life and his determination to make up for lost time with his family.
Mr Weatherson said that while he is delighted to be free, adapting has been difficult. He noticed so much has changed after spending so long in jail.
He said: "It's such a shock seeing how things are outside. The first thing was the money they gave us when I left. I had never handled plastic notes. Everything looks different, it's like I'm in a different world. All the buildings have been knocked down where I used to live in Scotswood.
"I don't even know how to answer my new phone. I'm struggling with everything about the phone. Everyone has changed, but I still feel like I'm 17."
As well as getting to grips with new technology Mr Weatherson is also having to learn how to socialise all over again.
"The prison sense of humour doesn't work out here. In prison you have to have a prison personality to survive," he explained. "I have had to re-learn everything."
Having left prison with no possessions other than photos of his family Mr Weatherson has had to buy a new wardrobe shopping with fashion changes and higher prices.
"When I was a kid I used to wear tracksuits and a Berghaus, now I'm trying to wear jeans and dress a bit smarter," he said. "It's been hard. I have had to rely on my family for everything, it's not easy.
"I just want to get a job and my aim is to get my own place. I have got so much catching up to do, there's not enough hours in the day. This is it now. I'm never going back to jail. I want to make up for the lost time."
Mr Weatherson went to his younger sister's gender reveal party and enjoyed a traditional Sunday dinner at his grandmother's house.
He said: "I enjoyed every mouthful, it was absolutely beautiful. The whole family was there.
"Just being part of the family again was the best feeling.
"When I was at my nana's just sat there all together it was like I had never been away. You don't realise how much you take for granted."
Thousands of convicts are still serving controversial IPP sentences, which came into force for England and Wales in 2005 but were axed in 2012.
The sentences were introduced to prevent offenders whose crime did not warrant a life sentence from being released if they were thought to still pose a danger to the public.
Critics have argued they have led to hundreds of convicts who could be safely released languishing in jail after becoming institutionalised.
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