I remember the moment a strong, passionate prison manager came up to me and conveyed her idea of a coffee morning in an enhanced houseblock and her subsequent significantly more courageous plan of holding an all prison MacMillan Coffee Morning in the grounds. This member of staff engages with some of our most complex men at Guys Marsh and has kindness and care at the heart of her practice. I admire her in so many ways.
The morning arrives and after the normal initial chaos of doing something new, we sit back and experience a day of team work and dedication. Men and staff share their stories of cancer and the prison band begin to play as residents and staff begin to sing together.
The air held excitement and a break from the daily routine was appreciated by most. This atmosphere lingered throughout the weekend with men recalling the positivity of the day. Those who did not take part were brought a piece of cake and this gesture reinforced that everyone that day was seen and considered.
This notion of being seen was a familiar phase in my Norwegian prison research- seen as people and seen for more than a crime.
That weekend the stability of the place was noticeably better and as the event faded and the normal environment ensued, I remained hopeful that creating a positive environment was possible. It is sustaining it that is the challenge.
That day we (as a community) raised over £800 with residents donating £500 of it! I remain overwhelmed by how giving people with very little can be, when there is something close to their heart.