R – restoration E –education S –story-telling T – team-building 0 –openness R –respect E –empathy
The Forgiveness Project has developed a prison intervention (piloted in HMP High Down) which works towards reducing the number of victims of crime through the rehabilitation of offenders. RESTORE is a five-day programme (running across 2-3 weeks) which comes under the Restorative Justice/Victim Awareness umbrella. The course is intended to explore the role of forgiveness in the lives of prisoners and to enhance their victim awareness by looking at the consequences of their actions on others and what might be done to repair the harm.
A half-day induction session is followed, several days later, by a 3-day workshop for between 15-24 prisoners, running across three consecutive days. This in turn is followed by a half-day follow-up session a week or so later.
- To develop empathy by helping prisoners understand the impact of their actions on others.
- To improve emotional awareness and self esteem - which will help prisoners engage with others in ways that are respectful and worthwhile
- To develop and enhance offenders’ communication skills through participation in a group.
- To open prisoners’ minds to an alternative way of viewing themselves and the world, one that makes a crime-free life seem appealing and achievable.
- To foster greater accountability - taking responsibility for past actions can create a more responsible future
- Prisoners, on release, will be less willing and less able to live a life of crime.
- Prisoners will be better able to build relationships with fellow inmates, prison officers and family, as well as being better able to deal with conflict.
- Prisoners will be more likely to embark on other courses in prison and to stay connected with The Forgiveness Project.
- Prisoners will be more resourceful and have a vision for their future which does not involve crime.
- The group bonding around inquiry and learning helps participants to feel more confident, and encourage them to continue in inquiry.
Prisons Where We Have Worked
Between November 2007-October 2011 we have delivered 55 workshop progammes in nine UK prisons: High Down; Guys Marsh; Featherstone; Huntercombe; Wandsworth; Ashfield; Parc; Doncaster; Blantrye House (Resettlement);
A team of 12 fully trained course facilitators and a number of volunteers make up the team. Each workshop uses 3 facilitators including someone who has been a victim of serious crime. Our trainer, Bernd Leygraf, is a Consultant Psychotherapist and has recently partnered with The Forgiveness Project to develop a year long diploma in Group Facilitation, Conflict Resolution and Counselling Skills. In every workshop at least one ex-offender acts as a facilitator. This ex-offender will normally have taken part in the workshop in prison prior to release.
Use Of Victim’s Stories
Each workshop invites at least one victim of crime/violence to come into prison to share their experience with course participants. These are always ‘reconciling’ stories – in other words stories where the speaker has reconciled with what has happened to them, though not necessarily with the perpetrator. The use of victims’ stories provides the opportunity for prisoners to address the harm they have caused as well as exploring the relationship between themselves as victims and the victims of their crimes. The use of victims is key to establishing empathy and understanding in the group.
“For most prisoners, time inside is simply an experience to be endured. So there is something extraordinary about a course which sets out to ask prisoners to examine the most profound and difficult issues imaginable. Attendance brings no privileges or rewards. It often brings heartache. Yet in under three years at HMP High Down, over 300 prisoners have completed that course; and with no advertisement but word of mouth the number wanting to attend a course has risen from 24 in 2007, to 84 for the most recent induction day.In my view, the Forgiveness Project can start a process of personal reflection without which rehabilitation and restoration are impossible. It is a privilege for High Down to host such a courageous and compelling undertaking.” – Peter Dawson , Governor HMP High Down July 2010
“The Forgiveness Project (TFP) has been coming to deliver four 3- day workshops a year at HMP Guys Marsh for the last two years. All the prisoners who do the course volunteer to participate and all of them will have completed a two week victim awareness programme in the education dept. before being eligible for the course. This format means that there is a developed sense of victim awareness in the client group before the workshop starts and this means that the volunteers are particularly open to the TFP work. The work itself is highly emotionally demanding and developmental. The quality of the delivery by the facilitators is universally excellent. The workshop and the materials and activities used in it are of a consistently good, professional level. Feedback from learners is always complimentary and many participants have said that the TFP workshop is without doubt the best, most powerful and useful course they have ever done in any prison. There is no higher praise than that. As the manager of an educational remit that covers social and life skills, I regard TFP as an indispensible part of our programme. It is well regarded by the SMT in this establishment and has a high reputation amongst education tutors and prisoners. I wholeheartedly endorse the work TFP does here as it adds an extra dimension to the work we already do. It helps us move in the direction we all desire – which is to bring people to a point where they can look at themselves honestly and begin to transform. Paul Kirk, A4e Education Manager, HMP Guys Marsh
“…As for The Forgiveness Project, I did it at High Down, and without a doubt, it is the powerfulist thing, I have ever done. I sat and listened to the Mizen’s who lost their son Jimmy. Powerful, really powerful. It was not until that day that I realised what I had put a family through and what they are still going through on a daily basis.” – Prisoner, HMP Huntercombe, January 2011
“I was amazed at the lads as normally in courses, they lose interest, become bored etc, but not once did you lose any of them, they were all totally present and because of the openness, honesty and the way the workshop was delivered, they felt safe to open up and be real. I know the word on the wings is spreading.” – Counsellor, Parc Prison July 2010
“Having recently held two Forgiveness Project courses at Featherstone’s witnessing the overwhelming impact on 40 prisoners who were lucky enough to be involved, one word springs to mind: outstanding! The course has had overwhelming feedback from the prisoners that attended the programme and having spoken to many of them since, they continue to talk about how the Project has changed their lives and this has been demonstrated whereby prisoners at the heart of trouble within the establishment have taken a different path and now working towards open conditions!” - Vanessa Pitt, Deputy Head of Offender Management & Interventions HMP Featherstone
“I was just writing to thank you. Since I completed The Forgiveness Project when I was in Featherstone it has had such a big impact on my life even though the course was 9 months ago. I still think about it a lot and all the people I met on the course. Since I came to prison I have done quite a few courses but I can honestly say that doing The Forgiveness Project course was the most beneficial one for me and one that will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. “- Prisoner, Mark Daly
“I’m doing well and often think about the group. The whole experience has made a great difference in my day-to-day life and for that I thank you all tremendously”. - Prisoner, Marc Thomas