The Victim’s Voice

Brixton Prison

Brixton Prison

… a commission is a necessary exercise to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation. — Dullah Omar, former Minister of Justice, South Africa

Prison does not work. Prisoners go in, serve their sentence, are set loose, and then return. The only aspect that works is that whilst inside, they are not outside committing crimes.

For one group prison does work. For those running the private prisons, it has become a very profitable business, in the US prison has become Big Business with Big Bucks to be made.

Restorative Justice is an attempt to get better results in terms of repeat offenders, that is once out of prison, don’t come back.

BBC Radio 4 re-broadcast what had been originally broadcast on National Prison Radio (a radio station for prisoners). A group of victims met with a group of prisoners to discuss the effect crime had on them. The crimes had not been committed by the prisoners, though they were hardened criminals who had committed similar crimes.

The crimes were horrific.

A lad was out one night and was set upon by a gang of yobs. They kicked him to death, repeatedly stamped on his head. The couple doing the telling were his parents.

Another who told her tale and got very upset, apologised to the prisoners for getting upset and for upsetting them.

The prisoners, I assume chosen as hard cases, were visibly upset by what they heard.

Following the session, one of the prisoners who was due for release, was so moved by what he heard, that he offered to work with victims on the programme to get the message across to other prisoners.

Psychologist Professor Tanya Byron who conducted the sessions in Brixton Prison had her own grandmother beaten to death.

The programme was very difficult and quite upsetting to listen to.

It was very reminiscent of the post-Apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings held in South Africa under the chairmanship of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Some of what was told was horrific.

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