In this guest blog, Zoe Twiddle from Khulisa shares her experience of a recent intervention with one of her service users, and the motivation she gets from supporting offenders on their journey to desistance.
I wanted to share a story with you that just clarifies why I/we do the work that we do.
I met with John, who was serving a sentence at HMP/YOI Isis, to conduct a pre-programme interview with him and to see his suitability for the course. Despite the fact that he had put himself forward to be a participant, he seemed very reticent and initially started the interview with a high level of distrust and a general feeling of apathy. Despite this I could sense that there was an underlying motivation that I could work with. John’s offence was around supplying drugs and he has a long history of drug abuse himself. When this was explored it was evident that he had a lot of guilt about his past behaviour and the people that he had hurt. John’s main concern was that people wouldn’t forgive him for his past behaviour and that he wouldn’t be able to build bridges with his family.
Throughout the interview there were appropriate moments where I was able to self- disclose my own situation around a close family member being an addict and how their behaviour has impacted on me and the rest of the family. John asked some very deep pertinent questions around this such as, “Could you forgive them?” and, “Despite what they have done do you still love them?” Answering “yes” to both these questions seemed to offer him hope and our bond was established. Further discussion unveiled that John had never really pushed himself to address his behaviour and as the interview came to a close his motivation to do the course was very different from the reticent young man that had been sitting in front of me an hour previously: there seemed to be a look of hope in his eyes.
The transformation that occurred over the 5 days of our programme with this young man was remarkable and is almost impossible to put into words. The use of the role play on the programme allowed John to reflect on how he came across to others during his time taking drugs and being high. It was a very powerful moment when he stated that he never wants to be that person again. John thrived on the group interaction and hearing other people’s views and opinions, and having a space to have his own voice heard was key in helping to raise his self-esteem and confidence. The continual affirmation from myself and Damian around his potential and future goals seemed to ignite a fire in him that he couldn’t wait to add more fuel to!
The last day was very emotional for John. Others in the room commented on his transformation and confidence. He stated that he had made some significant changes already such as giving up smoking and had been to the gym for the first time since being in prison. He had an enthusiasm and lightness to him that was inspirational. John was exceptionally grateful for the journey that he had been on and ended his check out with saying that he is worth more than sitting in a cell looking at four walls. He had forgiven himself.
I feel so privileged to be doing this work, thanks for reading.
Khulisa Programme Coordinator & Facilitator