Hindsight is a Wonderful Thing

Author: | 7 May 2024

As he nears release, our Longford scholar Isaac Rasmussen is reflecting on the past decisions that led him from Royal Marine to prisoner. He describes how going to university is the first step on what he plans will be a career in journalism

As a serving prisoner I have done my fair share of fixating on one point in my life and asking myself where did it all go wrong? And, if I could change or take back that decision, would everything would be different. For me, the decision in question was to leave the Royal Marines.

In itself, it might not have been fatal. The problem was that no preparation was put in place to secure a seamless transition into civilian life. I fell back on the old Bootneck (Royal Marine) mantra “no cuff too tuff’’, meaning we’re always up for taking on the biggest challenges. We improvise, adapt and overcome – and approach it all with a sense of humour.

It was not long before it became apparent that this cuff was a little tougher than usual. I bounced from pointless job to no job to pointless job again. I moved up north as it had more affordable housing, and I still had friends there from the Corps (Royal Marines). But nothing filled the void the Corps had left. It was not long before I was ready to fill that gap with whatever would give me any kind of purpose and excitement, something that could happen to anyone in these circumstances, although some might be more vulnerable than others.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

I now realise, regardless of whether I decided to leave the Royal Marines or not, that if I had altered my mindset towards even the loosest of plans, I probably would not have found myself in trouble (within reason). Structure and focus in any positive direction would have prevented me from having a knee-jerk reaction to events and situations that life threw at me.  The military phrase I should have been focusing on is, “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. It suits long-term goals infinitely better than “no cuff too tuff” which only works with short-term goals needing swift action.

I am learning, with the help of family, friends and now the Longford Trust, to balance taking risks with preparing properly.  Knowing that I will have a constant in Longford Trust from my first day of university to my release from prison and on to my first job and beyond helps to keep me grounded and concentrate on preparing for every eventuality. Through my mentor, or by engaging in the workshops and events, I can see that the Longford Trust understands where I have come from. It is a non-judgmental group of people I can count on for advice in a world that still does not quite understand the prisoner and the issues they face.

Turning Point

I now accept the decision to leave the Royal Marines had nothing to do with my subsequent failures and bad decisions. It is about how I went about things going forward. The real moral of my story is to not fixate on that single moment when you think it all went wrong. It is more likely that a pattern of events, fuelled by a pattern of behaviour, is what truly led to the negativity in your life. And the beauty of that truth is that it takes exactly same mechanism to improve things.

That means to improve your behaviour gradually over time, in regard of small events, and eventually you will see a change in your life for the better. The success can still feel as if it all happened by chance, but, if my experience is anything to go by, it didn’t. You effect the change habitually and you reap the rewards.


Education is all around us. There is no such thing as useless knowledge. However, academia was never my strong suit. I always struggled in school. It was not because I didn’t understand what was being taught. I just did not really get on with the school system and so ultimately did not thrive.

Joining the Royal Marines meant that no more academia, for a while at least. But, of course, there were still things to be learnt at great pace and under great physical and mental pressure. I suffered, struggled, improved and struggled some more until I found a groove. The suffering never ended, it was me who got used to it. I even found a way to enjoy it. I have hung on to these tools.

I chose to study media, journalism and publishing because of my interest in becoming a journalist. During my time at my previous category C prison, I had ideas on studying history, but as time went on, I swayed more into the direction of studying journalism. From a logical point of view journalism offers more opportunities and different job types. Especially, with a course like the one I am on at Oxford Brookes University where journalism is grouped alongside media and publishing.  When I leave prison, that will help with as seamless a transition as possible into the job market doing something that will challenge me and keep me engaged. That is crucial to my rehabilitation.

On a personal level, I always dreamt from early childhood of somehow leaving my mark on the world. I didn’t know how, and to this day still don’t. Becoming a journalist is my way finally of finding the answer. So, here I am embarking on yet another journey in to the unknown. Studying will be a struggle, but no matter how hard it gets I know I have been here before and I am supported and equipped to get there in the end.

If you are a past or present scholar, or one of our mentors, and have a blog you want to contribute, contact Clare Lewis.