Colin arranged the restorative justice meeting between Shad and Glenn. Here, he gives a facilitator's perspective.
"I met Shad when REBUILD had been going for around six months and his case was referred to us. I knew he had some issues with the probation service and had wanted to contact Glenn, his offender, for some time. But I went to meet him with an open mind – just to have a chat and find out what was what. We talked for two or three hours, but the time went really quickly. For Shad, it was a chance to discuss four years of frustrated attempts to contact Glenn.
"I said to Shad, ‘If the offender wants to meet you, it will happen.’ He was very encouraged by that. I began my part in the process, which involved research, and a great deal of preparation.
"I had to work out whether he was ready."
"Shad’s story was complicated and involved some very sensitive issues. Because he had so much to say, I had to try and cut out the details and work out whether he was genuinely ready to meet his offender. It was essential to strip away the story and look at the individual. Was he robust enough? Were his motives genuine? What were his family circumstances? Were there support mechanisms in place? All of these things needed careful consideration.
"Shad had been doing a great deal of good work with offenders and in restorative programmes. Because of this background I occasionally had to pull him back and remind him that in this case he was the victim of a particularly nasty assault, and that my role was to facilitate contact between himself and the offender.
"I also had to manage his expectations, because he had a very firm idea of what was going to happen. It had been two years since he had received a letter from Glenn, and I had to remind him that Glenn might have changed his mind about the meeting.
"The next step was to go and see Glenn, and that was a really positive meeting. This was helped by the offender management team at the prison, who were very accommodating. Something clicked when Glenn and I met – we found we had a lot in common. That made it easier to talk about what I was actually there for – the possibility of a conference.
"Shad was over the moon when I told him that Glenn wanted to meet him."
"Shad was over the moon when I told him that Glenn wanted to meet him. After several visits to both him and Glenn, I got to the position where I felt we were ready for a conference to take place. At that point, Shad brought up the idea of making a film of the conference.
"Good preparation is essential for any restorative justice conference, and the camera crew added another level of preparation. There was a danger that the filming issue was going to take over the real reason that the meeting was taking place, and I had to make sure I had control of that. I made a point of seeing both Shad and Glenn regularly and reinforced with both of them that this was about them meeting and talking about what happened, not all the other stuff that was going on.
"I also had concerns about Glenn’s involvement. If he decided that he didn’t want to be filmed, he might also start to question Shad’s motivation for wanting a conference and back out of that too. My approach was to be very open and honest with Glenn. I told him what had been suggested and asked him how he felt about it.
"I made sure that Glenn had met the film crew in advance. By the time the conference took place, he was familiar with the film crew and the filming process. I also made him aware that I could stop the filming at any time if he asked me to. For me, it wouldn’t have been a difficult decision to make – the conference was always the most important thing.
"The emotion between Shad and Glenn was almost overwhelming."
"The conference took place in a really nice space within the prison. It was big enough to accommodate everyone, including the camera crew. The emotion between Shad and Glenn was almost overwhelming, and from the moment they met, the cameras were forgotten.
"At the end of the conference when everyone was having tea, the rest of us left Shad and Glenn alone, and they were genuinely engaging with each other. It really makes a conference when you see that. Before Glenn went back to his cell, I had a few minutes to chat with him. He was feeling great – on a real high. I also spoke to his offender manager, Carl, and warned him that Glenn might start to feel a bit low in the next few days. When Glenn went back to his cell, I was confident that he had the right support in place.
"There's no substitute for meeting face to face."
"Glenn had already changed during his years in prison, but the power of his meeting with Shad was incredible. He could have written a couple of letters, but there’s no substitute for coming face to face with the person you’ve hurt. He was able to get past five years' worth of remorse and wanting to say sorry. Glenn told Shad that being sent to prison was the best thing that could have happened to him to end his downward spiral of violent behaviour – in his own words, he had been 'a nasty piece of work'. And he thanked Shad for ending that – it was incredibly powerful.
"The minute Glenn started his sentence he’d already decided that he wanted to change, but meeting Shad has been like a springboard for his rehabilitation. The conference wasn’t the defining moment in making him want to change, but it reinforced it massively and gave him closure. Offenders need closure as well as victims.
"Glenn hopes to be sent to a lower category of prison so he can prepare for his release. Ultimately he wants to go to college and get some qualifications and move away from Nottingham, where he might get sucked back into his old life. He’s very positive about his hopes and aspirations for the future. And hopefully, if he gets the right support, that’s what will happen."
The Restorative Justice Council would like to thank Colin for sharing his story with us.
© Restorative Justice Council 2015 – do not reproduce without permission.
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