Alan Bainbridge, Chair of the Weaving Trust action team, writes:
We met seven prisoners and Alan Hodgetts, the managing chaplain acting as a host. I introduced the session by saying that Weaving Trust is simply about meeting people we otherwise wouldn’t and through personal contact getting a fuller appreciation of each other’s lives. This may not immediately create trust, but without contact and conversation trust is impossible.
I was initially a bit apprehensive about meeting prisoners, some of whom were serving long sentences, but by the end of the session I was no longer apprehensive and I think that sums up the event. I learned a lot about prison life and found the prisoners to be reflective and insightful.
One interesting observation that came out strongly was that the prisoners wanted there to be more prison officers on duty. This reflects and supports the recent strong representations made by prison officers themselves that they are too few in number. The prisoners were generally respectful of the prison officers and recognised that they make the environment safer and enable prisoners to have more freedom within the prison, rather than being locked in their cells or ”behind the door” as they called it. I learned that prison life is tough, but not as tough, or cruel, as it is sometimes represented on television or in the press. The major difficulty was boredom, and the prisoners themselves seemed to greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet people from beyond the wall.
I came away from the event strangely conflicted because the people I met seemed remarkably ordinary, and yet they were prisoners and, as they all acknowledged, were there because they had done something wrong. In Weaving Trust we don’t expect any outcome, other than greater understanding, and I think I will reflect on this experience for some time. I wish all the people I met well.