Maria Killigrew is one of the prison officers assigned to the workshop. She has been here for previous project visits. "Last time, I went home raving about it," she says. "I've worked here for nine years and have grown used to prisoners not opening up. You do the day-to-day with them. You know if they have children or a partner outside, but you never get the underneath stuff. With this workshop, it was like a light-bulb effect. I watched the light being switched on as they began to think, to share, to interact with each other."
Her enthusiasm is echoed by Jane Corrin, the prison's community integration manager. "I never have to push people to come on this course," she reports. "It runs on recommendations and everybody seems to get something out of it. If only one seed is planted here today, then there will be one less victim in the future."
Funding, however, is a problem. Some prisons can make a small contribution to costs, but mostly the charity pays out of its own resources. And encouraging individuals to open up has the potential to leave them with nowhere to turn to once the workshop is over. Cantacuzino ends each day by identifying the "listeners" in the group. These are prisoners trained by the Samaritans to help others having a bad time. There is also a follow-up visit a few weeks after the workshop and participants can keep in touch with the project by letter. Many do.
There are still a couple of lifelines to share, held over from yesterday. When Geoff stands up to speak, I recognise the impact the course is having. With occasionally tearful eyes focused on the middle distance, he sits ramrod straight as he talks us through being handed over by his drug-abusing mother at the age of two to the care of grandparents and then an aunt, of domestic violence, of underachievement and trouble at school, of being given drugs at 14 and of such a chaotic life as an addict that by the time he gets to this point, there is a kind of inevitability of him murdering a dealer.
The effect of his account on the circle is markedly different from the impact of Boyce's speech. Her talk of forgiveness was new and shocking to them, but the details of Geoff's life are all too familiar.
Tommy uses the phrase the "old social shtick" to refer to any attempt to plead mitigating social, family and educational circumstances for his choice of a life of crime. "It is what the parole people want to hear, isn't it?" he explains. Which is certainly true. The liberal cliché is that everyone who ends up in prison does so because their mother didn't love them, or their school excluded them and so on. "What it is really about is my choice," insists Tommy almost angrily. "I'm not a victim."
The thing with clichés, though, is that there is a vein of truth in them. Without wanting in any way to excuse what Geoff did, it would be hard to have a childhood like his without it making some impact on his adult life. He is in my small group and the point is put to him. "But I've never thought my childhood was that bad," he replies.
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