'Beyond the Door' is another Koester exhibition curated by young people from the Walsall Youth Service from 13 - 26 January. For details:

PJG committee recently sent a letter to Liz Truss, Justice Secretary (no reply) to read the letter Liz Truss letter

To read the recently published review of youth justice to to

A moving story about Restorative Justice -

for two in depth reports on two very different prisons (Wandsworth and Oakwood) go to:


and an excellent article by Eric Allison (who spoke in Stroud in 2014) on education in Swaleside:

To read the latest review from CLINKS go to

Radio 4 Service

To hear the radio four service from Long Lartin prison Click Here

'The Ruby Quilt,'

On the 27th of |September 2013 we were shown the Holloway Quilt. This was made in 2012 by Holloway Women, some 130 taking part in the project. The inspiration for the project had come from a quilt, made by the Suffragettes, which contained the names of the women imprisoned in Holloway as a result of their public protest for the right to vote.

It had been a 100 years since this quilt was made.

Seeing the Holloway quilt inspired us, some dozen Rubies, the |Dept Governor at the time and me as Recoop worker to express in words what prison is/was like or what inspired us through seeing the Quilt.

Here are some of the Rubies words/ our voice:

  • When life gives you scraps, make quilts
  • Almost unbearable
  • Solitude-isolation
  • As I forgive those who ... Me
  • Tick tock; with lots of words expressing the passing/non-passing of time
  • Broken lives, hopes, dreams, hearts
  • Maternal, beautiful, hormonal, feminine
  • We all come together to fly
  • Free get out of jail, go straight to jail
  • Years go by-life goes forward not back
  • Lonely, but never alone
  • Empty without your family
  • Wanted, love and gentleness
  •  Soulful purple, joining hands and hearts at EWP, etc etc

The border on the top in big words says: RUBIES and at the bottom: Creativity works as all women have velvet in their hearts.

The sides: safety, resettlement, respect and purposeful activity

We did a lot of recycling too: the green squares that carry the words (all hand embroidered on) were cut from old prison sheets. The black cell-boarders in between were ripped (no scissors!) from officers used and discarded uniform trousers. The centre square is/ yes indeed: the bum pocket of one of these uniforms!!!  The tulips in the corner have significance too…

To brighten and lighten the whole thing and to celebrate the life of one of the greatest Prisoners of all times: Nelson Mandela, we sewed happy strips of red, yellow and green around it.

It has become a master piece, a true voice of the Rubies in a given point in history

It won the Platinum Award from the Koestler Awards 2014.

The strewn, sewn on buttons were sewn on later as it had become damaged by careless hanging>>pearl hearts now hide these vulnerabilities (….!).

It was then displayed at HQ of Amnesty International in London 2015.

Alma writes of her work with the Rubies here 

Giving Voice:

Having worked now for 3 years as a RECOOP Project Worker with the Rubies - the women Over 50 at HMP Eastwood Park - I am more then ever convinced that purposeful activity and special creative work is a fantastic restorative tool and therefore I use it regularly in my groups.

Creativity inspires, empowers, nourishes, brings about social engagement, it can be thought-provoking, reflective and it gives the possibility to learn new skills, confidence, new interests, enhances wellbeing through relaxation and self-expression!  It can be challenging and boundary testing (this was strongly experienced when we worked with mosaics last year.)

Over the last months I used it specifically as a tool to give people the possibility of growth in self-esteem and confidence and also in order to give ‘VOICE’ through self expression and self reflection.

Examples of giving voice:

-   A small poetry bundle was produced and published ‘RUBY-RED’- a year of poetry by the Rubies at HMP Eastwood Park.

-   An amazing quilt was made, giving voice and expression to thoughts and feelings the Rubies had after they had seen the quilt made by some 130 ‘Holloway-sisters’. The inspiration for this had been a quilt made 100 years ago by the Suffragettes, containing the names of the women imprisoned in Holloway as a result of their public protest for the right to vote.

Our Ruby quilt includes squares with words including:

  • When life gives you scraps, make quilts
  • Almost unbearable
  • Solitude-isolation
  • As I forgive those who …. me
  • Tick tock; with lots of words expressing the passing of time/ non-passing of time
  • Maternal, beautiful, hormonal, feminine
  • We all come together to fly
  • Free get out of jail, go straight to jail
  • Years go by-life goes forward not back
  • Lonely but never alone

The border on the top in big letters says RUBIES and at the bottom: creativity works as all women have velvet in their hearts and the sides: safety, resettlement, respect, purposeful activity.

Sheila and Mary from the PJG committee visited Clinks restaurant in Cardiff and had a wonderful lunch.  Clinks is next door to Cardiff prison, and the chefs and waiters etc come from the prison to learn about the hospitality industry.  Those who graduated from this in 2011 had a re-offending rate of 12.5% (over 60% for the average prisoner).

We both chose 'Crispy Panko hens's egg (a vegetarian Scotch Egg) served with wilted spinnach, wild mustrooms, and asparagua, sweet potato aioli (£8.95) Followed by Blueberry cheesecake, blueberry compote and blueberry compote (£5.75).

The dishes looked like works of art, the waiters were charming, the food excellent.  When we arrived we were asked if we had booked.  We said, 'no' and were told we should have done.   But when we said we'd come all the way from Gloucestershire, they found us a table.  Highly recommended, but advise booking.


The government has plans for a super prison for children  you can read about hit here – and find details of how to comment on the plans. Download


No one, apart from the government,  seems to think this a good idea.  For Howard League for penal reform comments see article and article

We have until the end of November to do this, so we could get together some time just after our November meeting and devise a PJG response?

PJG Nov 2013 – 2014

From our chair:

PJG has held its usual three meetings this year:  two Saturday morning meetings with a speaker or speakers, followed by discussion over a shared lunch and a larger evening meeting which normally takes place in Prisons Week in November.

For our major public meeting of the past year, 'Prison - Punishment or Healing?' we secured as a speaker Ben Gunn, a writer and campaigner on issues related to prison life and justice.  Convicted at the age of 14 for murder he spent 32 years in prison, 20 more than his tariff,since when he has been out on licence - so if anyone knows about it, he should!  Held in Cheltenham this meeting was chaired by Dave Turner, course leader in criminology at the University of Gloucestershire.

In April we met at the Gloucester Quaker Meeting House at 11.30 in the morning to learn more about Restorative Justice and how it works in practice.  The concept of restorative justice seems to have at last been accepted by our justice system and our prison service.  We heard from two Quakers who were enabled to visit a young man who was in prison for committing an arson attack on the Gloucester Quaker Meeting House.  This had caused considerable damage and we heard of the very positive results of this meeting.  We also heard from an ex-offender about how a meeting with the victim of his break-in changed his life.  He is now an effective facilitator for restorative justice and together with his erstwhile victim has produced a video and a book about his experiences, recounting his upbringing to a life of crime and the amazing change that has taken place.

We held our July meeting in the Watson Hall in Tewkesbury, a new venue for us and a very pleasant one.  This meeting was entitled 'Legal Discrimination,is it Fair?'.  Our two main speakers were both ex-offenders who described most movingly the extraordinary difficulties of life after prison.  We were not surprised to learn of the near impossibility of getting employment, but it seems that nearly every aspect of life is coloured, and not just for the ex- offender, but, if he or she is lucky enough to have a supportive family, their lives are blighted too. For those who have no-one or who have been rejected, the outlook is truly bleak, small wonder that so many end up back inside.  We were told that a prison sentence, however short, is like a tattoo:  every sentence a life sentence.  There were also positive contributions to this meeting however:  an  ex- offender in the audience who had been in jails, both here and in the States, told us how much better, in his experience, ours are than theirs with humane prison officers and no apartheid!   He is now in employment as a result of his record not despite it, running a Restorative Justice Programme in prison and looking for a house for his company Halfway House for newly released ex-offenders.  A police officer described how in Gloucestershire, young people who are deemed to be at risk of becoming involved in crime are being shown the likely consequences, by being introduced to Court procedures and talking to prisoners and ex-offenders, though there is some evidence that this practice may be counter-productive!.

All in all, despite the 'cuts' and certain government policies, it seems that some forward steps are being taken.

‘Catching dreams’ - Koestler Exhibition 2014

Koestler Trust Catching DreamsMany people in prison spend a lot of time dreaming. Some dream of a new life, not involving crime, and for some this comes through entering the annual Koestler awards for art from those in prison, secure patients and detainees.

This year the exhibition runs from 24th September to 30th November at the Southbank Centre
(Spirit Level at the Royal Festival Hall) and is entitled ‘Catching Dreams.’ I found it profoundly moving. The picture above, used to advertise the exhibition is called ‘My Dream’ and is by someone in HMP Schotts. The artist said of the work: ‘I was experiencing a profound sense of loneliness and a feeling of isolation, since I was missing my family. This led to me dreaming about far off places, which I visited with them.’ If you look carefully, you can see faces hidden in the exotic landscape.

Another piece which I particularly remember is an installation entitled ‘Lights Out’ - nothing to do with the recent imposition of a bedtime lights out time at 10 pm for those in Young Offenders Institutions. It is a small room with poems on the walls. Every two minutes the lights go out, and visitors are plunged into pitch darkness. You can no longer read the poems, but then other poems appear, projected onto the walls. Two minutes later these disappear as the lights come on again and the original poems reappear.

Carl, of HMP Full Sutton wrote of this work, ‘it is said that everybody comes to a point in their life where one second, one step, one decision will shape how the rest of their life will pan out. As true as that sounds, there’s more than one point and it’s NEVER too late to change your future. Only your past.’

The exhibition is open seven days a week from 10 am to 11 pm, entry is free. On Mondays to Thursdays there are free tours of the exhibition at 2. 30 and 6.30 pm (also at 4.30 Fridays to Sundays) These are led by ex-offenders, specially trained and recruited by the Koestler Trust to work alongside Southbank Centre exhibition hosts. They helped to choose which winning entries should be in the exhibition and are eloquent in explaining their choices. Their personal insights offer a first-hand account of how arts can reflect and enrich the lives of people in secure criminal justice settings.

This year there were 8,789 entries, a record number, which is reassuring as last year for the first time there was a drop in artwork entered for the award. The exhibition is clear evidence of the power of the arts in the rehabilitation of offenders, and should by noted by those currently tempted to cut access to art within our penal system.

We must also congratulate Alma and her Eastwood Park Rubies - they won a top platinum award for their quilt!  Well done Alma and the Rubies.

The exhibition is well worth a visit. You can read more here

'Doing Time Doing Vipassana' - A beautiful film (50 minutes) on how meditation helps in an Indian prison See the film to the right.


To read about the launch of this book click here

The Isis Centre in Gloucester wins Howard League award

In 2013 the Isis centre won the Howard League for Penal Reform’s prestigious Community Programme, Women’s Award. I was privileged to be invited to attend a celebration of this award at the Isis centre in Brunswick Square.

Isis is a centre for women in the criminal justice system. All its work is based on the premise that change is possible: it provides a wide range of services to help women to change. These include group programmes and specialist help and advice sessions, educational courses, drug and alcohol treatment, creative writing and very much more. It offers a safe space for help and support for women with a wide range of problems.
ISIS also works with the courts and the Probation service to develop a Female Only Specified Activity Requirement (FOSAR) as an alternative to custody. This provides structured support and supervision for women who might otherwise be sent to prison. With a steady caseload of 130-160 women, a quarter of these clients are at the “custody threshold” - facing an immediate prison sentence.

The first speaker at the celebration was Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League. She spoke of the ‘wrap-around love’ which underpins all that the centre does. She was followed by the Isis Manager, Rose Mahon, who talked of ‘loving women back to life’. ‘What these women need is ‘a jolly good listening to,’ she said. Then we heard from Tina Bayliss an Isis service user, and volunteer. She told of her troubled past and how Isis had helped her to turn her life around. She said that her key worker recognised something within her, ‘which was always in me, but I never knew I had.’

After a few more speakers and an excellent lunch we were able to tour the building and speak to the dedicated staff and volunteers. Here we could see this love in action, and understand why Isis is so successful in helping large numbers of troubled women to change, to sort out their problems and lead fulfilling lives. Isis is living proof that there are practical alternatives to custody for women, which can be far more successful. Isis sees each women as an individual, with something within her that is valuable: she is someone worthy of wrap-around love.

PJG's response to the government's paper on 'reforming rehabilitation' click here Transforming Rehabilitation

The death has occurred of one of our members - Chris Holtom of Minchinhampton- PJG members might be interested in reading his obituary in the Guardian here

Correspondence with Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary.
In November 2012 Maureen Parker wrote the following letter to Chris Grayling on behalf of the PJG committee:

Dear Mr. Grayling,

In your new job as Justice Secretary, we hope that you will continue and expand support recent initiatives in the criminal justice system that have been having such outstandingly positive results. This ‘rehabilitation revolution’ includes restorative justice and centres for women involved with the criminal justice system. We particularly welcome Lord McNally’s new clause on restorative justice in the crime and courts bill.

No doubt it is difficult to be tough on crime and to reduce the rates of re-offending while supporting initiatives which may be seen by some as soft options. But the wisdom of supporting initiatives that truly lead to long term rehabilitation, cannot be overstated. Perhaps the most profound legacy you could have would be to publicly support programmes that work: programmes that lead to rehabilitation and thus reduce reoffending. It may not be the easiest line to sell to the public or to your colleagues, but it leads to what everyone wants, less crime, fewer victims, less cost and fewer lives wasted stuck in the revolving door system that are our prisons.

As a nation we cannot afford to keep sending people to prison, not as tax payers, not as a state and not as a society. It seems to make little sense to continue to do the same things and expect different results. You could do nothing better for the country than to replicate what does work, and discard what does not.

Yours sincerely, Maureen Parker, on behalf of the PJG committee Maureen Parker

In January 2013 we received the following reply from Chris Grayling’s department:

Dear Ms Parker

Thank you for your email of 11 November to the Secretary of State for Justice, on behalf of Positive Justice Gloucestershire, commenting on the Government’s proposals for creating a rehabilitation revolution. He has asked me to respond on his behalf.

Your advocacy for supporting initiatives that are effective in producing long term rehabilitation is totally in accordance with the Government’s plans to ensure that public money is spent on what works rather than delivering a service that simply perpetuates the status quo. To get the best return on investment of public funds, the rehabilitation revolution will be built around the principle of payment by results. This approach is intended to open up the provision of post-prison services to a whole host of new participants. The Secretary of State wants to put in place a system which benefits from the expertise and skills of probation professionals along with the innovation and versatility of private and voluntary sector providers.

We see no conflict between being tough on crime to reduce reoffending whilst also supporting rehabilitation initiatives, including restorative justice(which you mention). Sentencing in individual cases is a matter for the courts, but we want those responsible for working with offenders after sentence has been passed to be able to determine what interventions they think will work best to rehabilitate that individual.

A publication setting out more detail of the Ministry of Justice’s approach to the rehabilitation of offenders, focussed in the community, will be published in the New Year. I would urge you to look out for this.

Thank you again for taking the time to write to us.

Yours sincerely.

Judy Webb
Sentencing and Rehabilitation | Ministry of Justice Policy Group | 102 Petty France | London | SW1H 9AJ

PJG's response to the Government paper on transforming rehabilitation click here to read Transforming Rehabilitation.pdf

PJG's response to the Green Paper on 'Breaking the cycle' to read this click here

"Women in Prison: Ruined Lives" Report of the Public Meeting

Baroness Jean Corston"POSITIVE JUSTICE GLOUCESTERSHIRE invited Baroness Jean Corston to speak on "Women in Prison: Ruined Lives, Damaged Children" on November 11th and St.Lawrence church hall was packed with more than 120 people to listen to her give a riveting talk in which she updated her 2007 Report to Parliament.

Baroness Corston's starting point was that, while a small number of female offenders need to be imprisoned, most offences committed by women are minor and the result of hardship so that their prison sentences are a disproportionate punishment. Women appear to be more heavily punished than men are.

Women's imprisonment affects about 18,000 children. As a result of even fairly short sentences, many women lose their homes and their children. This combination makes it hard for them to recover. They will not be permitted to have their children back without adequate accommodation and, on their own they will find it difficult to find suitable housing.

Women's prisons have been modelled on men's, although their offences and needs are very different. Prison does not reduce crime but support centres working with offenders and those likely to offend have been shown to be much more effective. Women's Centres cost as little as  £750 per head annually, whereas a prison place costs around  £70,000.

It was good to see so many people interested and willing to turn out on a wet and windy night, not just from Stroud and the villages around but from further afield; from Gloucester, Cheltenham, Cirencester and the Forest. Many Gloscat students came and a large group from ISIS, an organisation set up as a direct result of the Corston report. Under the umbrella of the Nelson Trust, it aims to tackle what lies behind the offending behaviour and thus reduce social exclusion from the use of custody. By meeting the needs of the women it hopes to achieve the essential aims of the Report.

The final question of the evening was, 'What can we do to support the aims of the Report' and the audience left with plenty to think about.

Felicity Keegan prepared very welcome refreshments and David Drew gave the vote of thanks.


View the 2010 Koestler exhibition  here

The 2012 exhibition is at:

2012 Treasurer's report here Treasurer.doc


Research relevant to the criminal justice system and PJG aims

Making Amends - Prison Reform Trust

Positive Justice

Coming Events