Scroll down the page for the Live blogs of the talks.

Videos about L

Live blogs about L

Sara Hyde talk

SaraHyde_portrait

SaraHyde_portraitSara also has a background in theatre. She starts with, acts rather than tells, the story of Katie: a beautiful small baby, neglected; moved into foster care, moved again and again; at 12 babysits and is raped by the father, and then all his friends; she runs away, and gets involved in crack and crime; at 18 she stabs an old woman; she’s had juvenile sentences, now it’s adult prison.

What does justice look like for Katie? How many people do we know that have been to prison? Why is it that the answer is lots for some and none for others?

Who ends up in our prisons? Other human beings. Sara is sharing statistics of the men and women behind bars. For example, how many have been abused or suffered depression, or attempted suicide.

Katie was not a sick fish as a baby, but grew up in unhealthy water. We need to change the water.

In recent years, the ratio of prison officers to prisoners has fallen. There is overcrowding. We are moving towards the US model of commercialised prison, but we can’t afford it. The National Audit Office says that there is no correlation between crime rates and numbers in prison.

Is there another way? 97% of people in prison say they desire not to reoffend, but 58% do. At HMP Grendon, a therapeutic prison, the rate is closer to 20%. This is due to focusing on relationships, giving time and place for human beings to relate to other human beings, and having a relational approach to justice.

We do still need prisons, especially for perpetrators of violent crimes. But what does relational justice look like? The principles include: a person’s acts may be bad, but they are still human; we all mess up; we need space to practise life; a prisoner may become a tax-paying citizen in the future; people are not commodities; prison is not an industry; what if people who sent others to prison were accountable for them; inequality means people don’t get equal chances.

On the ground, this means: reduce the prison population; use community sentences; reduce prison sizes; high staff ratios; use restorative justice, de-othering the victim and de-monstering the perpetrator; train and pay officers properly.

It is more effective to reduce crime by reducing drug use and providing mental health care than to put people in prison. HMP Grendon costs more per prisoner, but the lower reoffending rates means that it saves overall.

So where might Katie be now? What can we do, human to human, before we find Katie in a prison cell?

Clive Stafford Smith talk

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CliveStaffordSmith_portraitFuelled by tea and a cookie, it’s now time for the second session – Global Connections – and Clive Stafford Smith.

He begins with a tribute to his aunt who died recently. She was born at the wrong time, when opportunities were not available to women. His dad had bi-polar disorder, which has led to some interesting stories! Many of his actions were not the action of a rational mind. His aunt couldn’t accept that her brother was mentally ill, so didn’t accept that this drove his actions and were not necessarily bad in intention.

… Which leads to a story about Ricky, a convicted child molester and murderer. His mother was severely injured in a car accident, and while she was pregnant continued to be given all sorts of drugs, one of which has been linked to paedophilia. Ricky developed psychosis from an early age, and started molesting other children even though he had no idea what he was doing. At some point he had a counselling session, which told him he had a mental disorder and shouldn’t be released or he would reoffend. He was bright, so himself wrote to the state board saying he shouldn’t be released but kept in a mental hospital… but bureaucracy intervened… and then he killed a child.

The DA tried to seek the death penalty. Eventually there were conversations between Ricky and the mother of the boy he killed, who heard his story and said she’d fight for him. But the DA continued to seek the death penalty, and the mother was now considered to be unfit to parent her other children.

Ricky himself wanted to be a case study, to improve understanding of his condition. At the trial, the mother wanted to testify that Ricky was mentally ill and should be kept in a mental hospital and never released. Her testimony supporting him was very moving, and Ricky was spared the death penalty.

Clive concludes with two points. First, the mother was a victim, and the government tried to teach her to hate, but she tried to understand. Second, a person with mental health issues needs to be understood and not hated, which might get us to a place where we can prevent harm.

Harry Baker performance

Harry Baker feature

Harry Baker featureAnd now for our first performance, from world champion slam poet and maths student.

Harry’s starting with a love poem about prime numbers, called 59. In summary: 59 loved 60 from afar, but 60 thought 59 was… odd. And then 60 met 61, who was like 60, but a little bit more. Together, 59 and 61 combined to become twice what 60 could ever be. A prime example of love!

Through writing this his first poem, Harry discovered poetry slams. Poetry slams are a way of tricking people to attend poetry readings by putting an exciting word like ‘slam’ on the end. Being slam world champion means that his next poem is technically the best poem in the world, according to five French strangers: proper pop-up purple paper people. There’s no way I can blog it, so here’s a video.

Poetry is Harry’s way of investigating worlds without frontiers. His last poem today is about the Sunshine Kid, who had a sunny disposition and had a flare about him. But the shadow people made fun of his sunspots. He struggled at school – being too bright – and his judgment became clouded, and he let his light be eclipsed. And then came Little Miss Sunshine, who was hot stuff and told him we are all stars. Not all the darkness in the world can put out the light from a single candle. Astrophysics in motion!

…and Harry got the first (I may say well-deserved) standing ovation of the day, led by none other than fellow speaker Vinay Nair!