Letters - 10 January 2020

From continuing work to value around freedom

The work continues

I would like to reassure Howard Grace (20 & 27 December 2019) that the work of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt (both killed at Fishmongers’ Hall in London on 29 November) is indeed continuing – with direct input from Quakers.

Britain Yearly Meeting part-funds research by Ben Jarman, a Friend from Westminster Meeting and a PhD student at the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, focusing on men serving life sentences for murder. The severity of these sentences – measured by the ‘minimum term’ of imprisonment before release can even be considered – has almost doubled since 2003.

Ben’s research explores what rehabilitation might mean in the context of a life altered by two or three decades of imprisonment. Most ‘lifers’ are eventually released, and few reoffend, so the research aims to discover how lifers change inside (in both senses): how they think about their lives before and since their conviction; and the kinds of ethical and personal progress they make in prison (or don’t). This understanding could be the basis for designing different approaches in the future.

Ben has also been involved, since 2017, with the Learning Together initiative, and was present at Fishmongers’ Hall. Those affected, including Jack and Saskia, were his friends and colleagues. The tragedy will inevitably have ramifications for this work. But it has already been shaped by his involvement with Learning Together, and by friendships he has formed through it. Saskia and Jack’s memory lives on through such relationships.

For more information please see Ben’s blog https://changinginside.co.uk and his page on the Prisons Research Centre website www.prc.crim.cam.ac.uk/directory/jarman.

Ann Pfeiffer
Grants programme officer, Britain Yearly Meeting

Finding Friends

The letter from Michael Wright (20 & 27 December 2019) resonated with me. When I was seeking a spiritual home in 2002, I came across a copy of Quaker faith & practice in my local library in Barnet, Hertfordshire. Much to the astonishment of Friends I subsequently met, I read it from cover to cover! It made so much sense to me.

A short time later, I read an article in our local newspaper about the new five pound note, featuring Elizabeth Fry, written by a Friend at New Barnet Meeting. This was the nudge I needed and I started attending the following week. I became a member a few years later. I doubt whether I would have found Friends, if it hadn’t been for the library book.

Teresa Holland

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