‘Do Time’ Belmarsh Event 23.02.12
‘Do Time’, an event held at HMP Belmarsh on 23.02.12, had the purpose of raising awareness of the work of Safe Ground. A succession of interactive presentations and discussions was led primarily by the graduates themselves, 11 men still serving time in the prison in which the event was situated. A range of representatives was of great importance, so that different organisations and institutions could witness and be impacted by the various aspects of Safe Ground programming.
The day was of equal importance for the graduates themselves. They were a little apprehensive beforehand, as they were unsure if
attendees would want to hear their opinion about the courses, and what Safe Ground and other relevant organisations can do for reoffending in the future.
It was fitting then that the event began with a presentation of what the Family Man and Fathers Inside courses involve – delivered by the graduates. Poems, monologues, and short scenes interspersed with short speeches spoken from memory, reflecting aspects
of the courses, and the effect it had had on them as they had progressed through.
“Family Man never really ends” one graduate described, showing that the impact of what he had learnt has changed him, and stayed with him. “You really notice the difference when someone does Family Man, because they want to make a positive difference”, another added. All 11 men come across as completely focused on making a better life for their families; and they attributed this whole-heartedly to the Safe Ground courses.
A section of this presentation had the graduates each delivering a short statement of what the programmes have done for them;
- “Made friends, open up to my family”
- “Be more honest to myself and to my family”
- “Help me make links for opportunities in the future”
It was wonderful to hear attendees express how brilliant the graduates were. One guest openly admitted at the following Q&A session that she had preconceptions regarding prisoners generally, and what she’d expected she would find when walking into the event today more specifically. These, she said, were totally overturned after only a couple of hours of listening to the graduates speak.
Feedback from the graduates after the event was that they were both surprised and touched by the level that attendees were interested in their lives. Speaking to one particular graduate after the event, I wanted to know whom the most interesting person was that he had spoken to throughout the day. The reason he mentioned the person that he did was not for who he was, as I had expected. The reason was that he had asked personal questions, showing interest in him, which was something he had not expected. Furthermore, this person had given some personal information back. They had made a connection. This person was interesting to the graduate because he had shown interest in his own life. When that happens, it makes a difference.
There were many things to learn from this event, and the reaction was extremely positive. Attendees left aware of the deep impression Safe Grounds programmes had had in the lives of the graduates and how much they want to help move the programmes and the organisation forward.
By Ellie Budd