Public Meeting for Prisons week
Thursday 19 November 7.15
Frances Close Hall
University of Gloucestershire
'Inspired to Change'?
Restorative justice forum April 2014
Just five years after our first lunchtime forum, Positive Justice Gloucestershire returned to the
same venue, Gloucester Quaker Meeting House, and the same topic, restorative justice (RJ).
Five years ago few knew what RJ was, now it is government policy, part of their Victims’
Charter. In our 2014 forum we heard about restorative justice from two Quakers and two
Peters. The meeting was chaired by Becky Beard, of Restorative Gloucestershire, who told
us that her organisation sees about 40 cases using RJ each month.
We started with a power point presentation pointing out clearly the differences
between restorative and retributive justice. With restorative not only must the offender take
responsibility for the harm done, but the harm done to the whole community is also
Then the Quakers told of their conference in prison with the arsonist who had done
£150,000 worth of damage to their meeting house in 2012. They spoke of how the Quakers
felt their meeting for worship had been violated by the attack. They wondered if something
they had done could have provoked it. They knew about RJ, and soon realised that this was
what they needed to do. After much careful planning they met the arsonist in prison, with a
RJ facilitator. They explained that, as well as leaving Quakers with nowhere to meet, the
building was let out to numerous community groups, all of whom had to find somewhere else
for ten months. The arsonist was full of remorse, and wanted to do what he could to make
amends. They heard the reasons behind the attack, reasons he did not want shared, and
realised that it was nothing personal, nothing against Quakers. They asked the arsonist to
forgive himself, as they have forgiven him.
We also heard from two Peters, both ex-offenders, guilty of many offences, both now
RJ facilitators. Peter Woolf (see The Woolf Within on You Tube) gave a brilliant talk about
himself – his upbringing and life in crime, his feelings and his hopes. He started stealing at an
early age, because he wanted a plastic dalek, like all the other children in the playground.
His talk was so graphic that he seemed like an actor but it was all genuine. After a
particularly violent crime, he met his victim through RJ. and understood that victims, and all
the others affected by his crime had feelings too. He really put across that revelation: before
RJ he’d never considered them as people. Now he gives talks on RJ with his former victim.
Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1s6wKeGLQk to hear him first hand.
Peter Miles was brilliant too. A lot of his crime was committed in America where he
has been in prison in numerous states and where, he says, they noticed he is black, which had
never been an issue for him growing up in Bristol. He told of his ‘double life’: while
working as a paramedic for the New York fire department, he was also using illegal drugs.
He had some interesting things to say about the differences between UK and US prisons. In
this country prison officers do far more than the locking and unlocking which he felt was all
that US officers did. Here, he said, they have wider, more caring roles as well. He came to
RJ through the Forgiveness Project’s course in prison and is very skilled at passing on its
power to heal.
Both Peters have long histories of crime, and both now work in RJ to help others give
up crime. On both sides of the victim-offender divide, it is clear that RJ works: it heals
victims, helps offenders to understand the harm they do, and enable both to move on and to
We have made a short PDF about the Past Events we have held.
Positive Justice aims
- To encourage the use of restorative and therapeutic practices within the criminal justice system, in order to reduce crime and its impact on victims.
- To act as a pressure group: balancing negative representations in the popular press, and raising public awareness of, and support for, positive initiatives within the criminal justice system, particularly alternatives to imprisonment where appropriate.