Letters from the Men & Women
A letter from two men serving time at Winchester prison
During session 3 of the Sycamore Tree course (which is run by Prison Fellowship) offenders hear from a victim of crime. Ray and Vi Donovan regular speakers at these sessions about how the murder of their son, Chris, affected them. Two offenders who heard Ray and Vi’s story wrote to them to describe how it had changed them:
‘I was planning to hurt someone on release…’
“Thank you so much for coming to visit us and telling us what happened to your son and family. I was planning to hurt someone on release but now I never want to hurt someone or make anyone a victim of my crimes ever again. I know your story can change lives as it’s changed my life. Between your story and the Sycamore Tree course I’ll never do a crime again. If I could I would put a flower of Chris’ grave because his life changed mine.”
‘I could have been those kids that killed Chris…’
“This story affected me in quite a big way because I could have been those kids that killed Chris, except that fortunately I haven’t killed anyone. It made me think about some things I’ve done in the past and why I did them, not thinking about the consequences or my actions. After getting sent to prison I came to the conclusion that I am never fighting again, hearing this story makes this feeling stronger and now I want to show my apologies.
A letter from a young man serving time HMP Hindley YOI
Dear Ray and Vi ,
I hope you are ok with me writing this, if not I do apologise. I just wanted to thank you for coming in and openly telling us your story. I think you were both extremely brave to do so, when I got back to my cell and I read through your booklet 'Understanding restorative justice' it brought a tear to my eye for the first time since I lost my close friend in 2011 to a motor bike accident and I sat there and the booklet made me think life is too short, and that I don't want to be in jail away from my family and friends and for the first time it made me want to change my life when I do get out in January.
I have wasted two years of my life in jail through bad choices and being around older people who at the time were into drugs and guns. I wanted to impress them so I decided to take a gun but would only hold blank ammunition, and went and robbed the other people that they had trouble with through dealing drugs, at the time I was not thinking about the consequences of my actions, I also thought I was untouchable and would never get arrested because it was indeed drug dealers that we were targeting.
But they did end up ringing the police and I got six years ten months, I was only fifteen at the time and I never thought of the people that I was close to or the people that was close to the victims which is of course the (ripple effect) you only realise it affects a lot of people not just those at the scene but it's to late to think about it when I'm in jail.
In a way my mum sometimes says I would obviously have you at home where you belong with your family but sometimes she would tell me that at least she could get a good night's sleep knowing I'm safe and not out doing wrong, maybe one day I will understand a parent's pain so worried that you could be in trouble or doing bad and living a dangerous life.
But to lose a child I could never understand or even imagine the hurt and pain inflicted on your whole family and yourselves as parents. That's why in a sense I do admire you both, I will never know how you managed or even moved on, and I don't understand how you forgave the people that put you through this pain but what you did was amazing. You helped the boys that done wrong and will have to live with a lifetime of regret move on with their lives which is mind blowing to think what good people you are. I know that Christopher would be so proud of you looking down from heaven smiling knowing that the best was made from a bad situation. Thank you very much for everything I really enjoyed meeting such brave people.
Name supplied but not added