Collection this Month
The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) is a charity working to create a just, humane and effective penal system in the UK. It was set up in 1981 in London and now aims: To improve prison regimes and conditions, defend and promote prisoner’s human rights, address the needs of prisoners families and promote alternatives to custody.
It carries out research on all aspects of prisons, such as: prisoners’ views on prison education; mental health needs of women prisoners; older prisoners; those with disabilities; prisoner councils; foreign national prisoners, prisoners’ votes; and has written a report on how sentencers make the decision to imprison offenders.
The Trust’s activities also include information and advice, education, parliamentary lobbying and provide a secretary for the All Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group.
If you wish to donate but can’t attend at the Meeting House, please send a cheque to Rachel Bach made out to “Ipswich Quakers”. Please send this before the end of the month concerned.
Quaker Faith and Practice
This year passages from Quaker Faith and Practice will alternate monthly with short poems by the American poet Carl Sandburg.
– QFP 10.05 We recognise a variety of ministries in our worship. These include those who speak under the guidance of the Spirit, and those who receive and uphold the work of the Spirit in silence and prayer. We also recognise as ministry service on many committees, hospitality and childcare, the care of finance and premises and many other tasks. We value those whose ministry is not in an appointed task but is in teaching, counselling, listening, prayer, enabling the service of others, or other service in the meeting or the world. The purpose of all our ministry is to lead us and other people into closer communion with God and to enable us to carry out those tasks which the Spirit lays upon us. (London yearly Meeting, 1986).
Film Evening 23rd June
Film Night- 23rd June at 7 pm- documentary about Satish Kumar, titled ‘ Earth Pilgrim’ .It explores the relationship between humans and the natural world, using the wisdom of this writer, ecologist, pacifist and editor of ‘Resurgence’ magazine. The documentary portrays his home area of Dartmoor. Time 48 minutes, no subtitles but clear speaking. This will be followed by a short Concord film ‘The Red Stain’ about the effects of militarisation. Length 13 minutes, no subtitles but no spoken words.
TIM NEWELL’S VISIT TO IPSWICH
Tim Newell was the Swarthmore lecturer at Yearly Meeting in the year 2000. I was a Quaker attender and it was the first time I had been to Friends House. Tim made such a lasting impression that when I heard last year from another Quaker Prison Chaplain that he had been speaking in Winchester, I immediately contacted him and asked if he would consider coming to Ipswich to talk to us about his life and interests.
Tim spent 38 year of his life as a Prison Governor, the last 10 in HMP Grendon, and he gave his Swarthmore lecture on Restorative Justice just two years before his retirement. I was delighted that he agreed to come, and offered to tell us more on that theme, and also on Circles of Support and Accountability, and on his latest interest, a charity called Escaping Victimhood.
Tim comes from a long line of Anglican Clergy, and was born in India where his parents were missionaries. He was a churchgoer until adulthood, when, on impulse, one Sunday morning, instead of taking his usual route to church on the right, he turned left to the Quaker Meeting House. I like to think of that impulsive swing away from convention as a metaphor for his life’s work. He has turned away from the conventional British approach to Criminal Justice, which he sees as gratuitously punitive, and has espoused and followed the concept of restoration; which means the possible recovery, healing, growth and re-habilitation of the prisoner, so that he has an opportunity to return to the community outside and live a life with some meaning and value.
Many of us, like myself as a new attender, have not thought much about prisons and what they do. They are places where troublesome people are shut away out of sight and out of mind. We have a limited idea about the profile of a typical prisoner, his experience inside, and what the kind of life he is offered. Nor do many of us realise that release from prison, as one offender said, is as traumatic as “falling off a cliff”.
Tim started his career as prison Governor in the early 60s. By the time he moved to Grendon, in the early 90s, conditions were being studied and criminology had become a serious study subject. No doubt all prisons were changing their style, but Grendon was already exceptional. It began life in 1962 as an experimental psychiatric prison but developed the concept of the therapeutic community, and specialises now in the treatment of serious sex offenders and violent men. It is a place where everyone has a right to speak out without inhibition, and the whole of the staff, at all levels meet up regularly with all the men. There are 5 and sometimes 6 different wings with about 40 men in each, and the idea is to uncover and treat serious mental health and other problems, encourage the exploration of each man’s crime, and offer support by a staff of professionals, but also by officers and by one’s peers, in seeking recovery and preparing to move on .
I have discovered from the prisoners I see locally that in Grendon there is a powerful Quaker ethos, and Quaker Meetings are frequent and well attended. It seems that Tim Newell was important in furthering this in Grendon, adding Quaker principles to a restorative system which was already different, in aiming to let go of punishing regimes, prevent conflict, build relationships, and repair harm.
Restorative Justice is a movement which brings those harmed by crime or conflict, and those responsible for the harm, into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward. In effect, this often means that the offender eventually meets the victim and is able to understand the harm he or she has caused. Often it involves apology and forgiveness, and gives the victim greater understanding of why the incident occurred
Tim talked extensively about his prison experience, and explained that men who go through the Grendon system talk a great deal. They often have arrived in Grendon silent and closed, but the system helps them to open up and express all kinds of things. Moving on afterward into a regular prison, they say they need to learn to shut up again, because they find there is no longer a listening ear immediately available.
Tim’s second theme, Circles of Support and Accountability, was about a pilot scheme, financed by the home office and initially carried out by Quakers, to support sex offenders when they are released from prison. This scheme was eventually supported nationwide. Sex offenders have a tough time of it in prison, yet many of them seem to stay on indefinitely, sometimes in special units. Release can be particularly alarming for them. Paedophilia, for example, is an addictive behaviour which means that it is very difficult to resist the urge to re-offend, especially in a hostile world outside where they have been branded for their crime, and have their names are on a sex offenders list available to the public. Circles of Support and Accountability is a small group of trained volunteers who will meet regularly with an ex-offender in an informal way, and be available at all times, to try to support him or her in resisting the urge to re-offend. They are also expected to report any further offences to the justice system and the offender may then be returned to prison. This system has now in addition been opened up as Circles of Support for all released ex-offenders. It appears to be very effective. Many prisoners are so traumatised by release to the world outside that they quickly re-offend in order to be re-committed. This venture is helping to reduce the numbers who return.
Tim’s last theme was a charity which he helped to found, called Escaping Victimhood. This is the other side of the Restorative Practice coin, in that it seeks to help victims of crime recover from their undoubted trauma. Those who wish, if they can find a group in their area, are given a time of retreat in a lovely quiet place, where they are cut off from their familiar world and pampered. There are therapists and psychologists on hand and the idea is to explain to these victims what trauma is. Once they have profoundly understood, they can access their own trauma, and begin to release it and come to understand it. There are massages, aroma-therapy, tai chi trainers, and a whole group of supportive people on hand, and the food and setting are always attractive. The hope is for healing and a return to a bearable life.
This sounds like an expensive venture, but Tim’s ambition is to further extend this system, and he asked us to hold a retiring collection for this charity at the end of his talk.
The evening was challenging, for both Tim and his audience, and there were many questions, so we over-ran our time limit. The effort was very worthwhile and Tim is a delightful, gently humorous man, as impressive as ever, who stayed on with us for tea and hot cross buns afterwards. We had 50 people attend, many Quakers, one prisoner, several students, and we collected over a £100.
Tim Newell Evening
It was interesting to compare Tim Newell’s approach at Grendon with that described by Andrea Needham when she and the other three women were on remand for their trial , when they were found not guilty of damaging a warplane bound for the genocide going on in East Timor. This was described in her book ‘Hammerblow’. She repeatedly describes the ridiculous nonsensical rules they had to obey and, when all other reasons had been exhausted, the prison officers simply told them ‘Because I said so.’ Their only recourse was complaining to staff or the governor and they were involved in no decision making.
At Grendon the inmates were houses in blocks much smaller than for a normal prison and had a degree of decision making which included prisoners having to present them with reasons for requesting home or compassionate visits and they decided the outcome. However when they had successfully responded to the Grendon system they then had to return to a larger and more formal prison regime where they had to disguise their previous way of doing things otherwise they would be picked on, isolated or bullied by other inmates. I can remember this being evident on a visit to see Suffolk Punches at Hollesley Bay. We were told that many of the prisoners, conscious that others were looking for any emotional signs of ‘weakness’ in them, developed a very close relationship with the horses, since these magnificent animals did not judge them and by working with them they could unlock emotions that had to be kept to themselves back in the prison system.
Talk/Discussion on Restorative Justice by ex Prison Governor
Tim Newell, Quaker and former Governor for 10 years of Grendon Prison came to talk to the Ipswich Discussion Group about Restorative Justice on 31 Mar 17. At Grendon the restorative justice approach is central to prison life.
Extent of Restorative Justice has been widened to include not just “Healing the Hurt” between Offender and Victim, but also with their Communities, including the Police and other associated Agencies affected by the crime.
Where Restorative Justice has been used is in 100 Countries: Canada is a forerunner, S Africa notably (Truth and Reconciliation Commission), N Ireland (limited extent in the Troubles, success in youth justice), UK schools (spearheaded by schools in Hull starting 8 years ago), Business and Public Sector (here and there especially for conflicts arising out of change)
The Process of Restorative Justice begins with helping those involved, making connections in terms of seeing others points of view and developing an understanding for others. There is no expectation that e.g. forgiveness will be achieved. However such things may come later. The whole process is very open and allows feelings to be expressed.
Benefits include reducing the risk of re-offending of ex offenders, combating (PTSD) post traumatic stress disorder amongst victims, and various stresses amongst other participants. Amongst prisoners there may be crime related and historical PTSD. Home Office/ Ministry of Justice research found that where offenders of serious crimes met their victim, reoffending fell by 27% (and of course future victims of those offenders fell by 27%) For prisoners serving community sentences it fell by 55%.
Disbenefits are that it costs more at the time, but the research showed that for every £1 spent on delivering that Restorative Justice, up to £9 was saved in lowering the cost of offending.
Grendon holds over 200 prisoners. They request to come to Grendon because they want to give up crime. They stay for over two years, before usually returning to a normal prison to continue their sentence. Most are prisoners on an indeterminate sentence and have committed homicide, violent or sex offences. There is a waiting list for Grendon.
It is run very democratically, with prisoners divided into communities of 40. E.g. a community decides whether one of them should have home leave or, who should do the cleaning. They are supported by therapists with a range of skills. Attitudes and expressions, which would not normally be tolerated in prison, are accepted and used to give feedback to prisoners. Much therapeutic dialogue occurs in small groups with prisoners often experiencing real feelings for the first time. This leads them to be able to confront their behaviour where they have hurt people or property, and to have a greater understanding of their behaviour.
Returning to a Normal Prison after Grendon, prisoners have to return to adopting a “system head” which includes showing no feelings and not talking about their crime, in complete contrast to Grendon . For this Grendon prepares them with a strategy for coping with being back in a normal UK prison.
Possible Role for you and me Leaving prison is often a frightening experience. No family, no accommodation and no work and only £50 in your pocket. However just like in prison there are volunteer chaplains, outside there are too, but lamentably all too few. They are for ex offenders of any faith or none and an ex offender would have a “circle” of volunteers supporting their different needs.. Circles of Support and Accountability are especially valuable for sex offenders for whom integration back into society is most difficult. Prisoners have to be clear of drugs for 3 to 4 months before early release into such a scheme is considered. The deal is that if volunteers feel unhappy about an ex offender’s behaviour the volunteers will report it to the authorities. That can lead to reimprisonment. Typically support is for about a year but it can be for much longer.
There is also a community chaplaincy system throughout England at present. This trains volunteers to mentor people coming out of prison to help them resettle more safely.
Training for such volunteer chaplains or mentors is 6 half days. A Volunteer will have a supervisor who they work under. Tim is now involved in this chaplaincy. You can apply to become a volunteer from http://www.communitychaplaincy.org.uk/about.html
Questioning him afterwards he said that he was aware of only about 10 of the 100’s of ex sex offenders had reoffended who had been supported by a Circle of Support.
Bad Publicity turned out Good when the Daily Express featured ex prisoners getting special treatment – Circles of Support and Accountability it led to a surge in applications for volunteers to work this way.
Escaping Victimhood is Tim’s latest charity. This is a system of small group retreats for people who have suffered the trauma of a bereavement through homicide or a criminal assault, whether it be physical or material. Tim and his colleagues believe that what must be understood for these people is the trauma which they have experienced, as many of them don’t understand or acknowledge it. The groups are brought together in a beautiful retreat centre, although the coming together is now called a workshop as a ‘retreat’ put people off coming initially. Here good food and pampering help participants to relax and open up. They are told in detail what trauma is, and can thus come to understand their own post-traumatic stress. In understanding what has been inflicted upon them and what their symptoms are about, they begin a process of healing which helps them to lift away from their roles as “victims”, and begin to escape those roles. It is, if you like, the reverse side of the same coin as Restorative Justice. RJ helps the criminal to face his crime and sometimes even his victim, whereas Escaping Victimhood helps the victim to become able to live with the horror he or she experienced at the hands of the criminal. In both cases the aim is to diminish suffering and offer the possibility of a reasonable life in the future, to those who had lost it through a crime.