“I can forgive many things but there are some things I don’t think I can forgive.”

John has been a serving prison officer for 11 years, for the last five of which he has served in HMP Peterborough. He had been serving as a wing officer and as part of the specialist prison team dealing with conflict and riot situations. He had only just commenced work within the programmes unit and RESTORE was the first programme he was solely responsible for supporting.

RESTORE requires one prison officer to participate fully within the programme alongside prisoners. This is an essential part of our work and has allowed very positive relationships to develop between prisoners and officers, humanising ‘the other’ and encouraging greater connection to one another.

At the start of the programme, John stated to the men that he was going to participate in the same way they were and asked them to try to see him, where possible, as John and not as an officer. In the opening check-in which begins each programme, John shared: ‘I can forgive many things but there are some things I don’t think I can forgive’.

John was amazed at how quickly this group of men settled into a place of intense listening and engagement. He had not seen anything like this in prison before and was amazed. As John listened to Anne Marie Cockburn share her story, alongside the men, he expressed how shocked and emotional he felt, as he thought of his own family and how he would respond if he lost one of his children.

At the close of this day, John shared to the group an incident from his past where a good friend had stolen from him and he described how he could not forgive this act. He said, ‘My friend had betrayed my trust in him and I can’t forgive him for this.

The RESTORE team shared the story of Margaret Foxley and how she had dealt with a similar situation and undergone a restorative justice process. John was intrigued and said he would look at this story further.

During the staff de-brief at the end of the first day, John shared his amazement how much this programme was impacting the men and himself, both personally and professionally.

On day two, John announced he had spent the evening with his wife discussing the day, researching stories and watching Margaret Foxley’s film. He described how he was stunned at the impact this story had on him. As he said, ‘I’m starting to see things a bit differently, it’s really making me think’.  

During day two, as participants shared their lifelines, John witnessed how the group bonded. He described this moment as being very affecting especially as men began to openly show their emotions to one another. When John spoke, the group were amazed to hear his story and one man said: ‘I know you J, and you have always been an officer that cares, but I didn’t know this was your story’. The group spontaneously went into an applause and commended him for the courage it took, especially being an officer.

In the staff de-brief at the end of the day, John shared how nervous he had felt sharing his story. He realised how it was for the men and he felt such gratitude for the response he received from everyone.

On the third and final day, John shared in the check-in that he had called his father the night before. He expressed how this course had been pivotal moment in beginning this dialogue with his father, encouraging him to begin a process of forgiveness.

In the final de-brief, John said:

Over the years I’ve tried to disassociate myself from their (prisoners) lives but hearing their stories, and sharing my own has really helped me to see the human connection between us all

John went onto share how this programme revealed to him a profound human connection with both his own story and those participants who shared theirs. He was very humbled by the men’s support to him in sharing his story and was personally very impacted by all he had witnessed.

Get in touch

If you would like to learn and discover more about RESTORE, enquire how RESTORE can work in partnership with yourselves or begin a strategic process of planning to deliver RESTORE within your settings, please do get in touch via our RESTORE Programme Manager sandra@theforgivenessproject.com.