Project with jail inmates and crime victims

ERLESTOKE Prison will be leading an innovative project that involves inmates and victims of crime working together to design a mosaic.

The idea came from Debbie O’Shaughnessy, a probation officer working in the prison who is also an artist.

The project has the support of Victim Support and the Friends of Erlestoke Prison.

The Friends will pay half of the £3,000 cost of the project and Devizes Area Board agreed on Monday night to pay the other half.

Ms O’Shaughnessy told the Area Board meeting the mosaic would be placed in the grounds of the Category C prison and would be seen by prisoners, their families, staff and visitors.

She said: “The project will bring together victims of crime and serving prisoners to design and make a mosaic.

“It’s hoped for the victims who take part it will be a very empowering project.

“For prisoners, restorative justice will teach them empathy for others and learning about the impact of their crime.”

She said, through its design, the mosaic will show how crime shatters and breaks lives but will also show people’s aspirations to become free from these debilitating experiences.

The mosaic workshops and overall design will be carried out by artist Maylee Christie, who has been involved in community mosaic projects including in a zoo and in a park.

The Try Walking in My Shoes project, is due to get under way in March and should be completed by June.

Wiltshire councillor and Devizes Area Board member Richard Gamble welcomed the project. He said: “Erlestoke is one of the leading prisons in the country for rehabilitation of offenders and addressing the risk of re-offending.”

Angela Hughes, of the Friends of Erlestoke Prison, said: “We work very closely with the prison and we encourage ideas for projects from prisoners and staff.

“This is very much a rehabilitation project and the big impact will be on the amount of people seeing the mosaic.

“Although victim empathy work is a central part of many offending behaviour courses, there is no visual representation of the impact of crime in the prison.”

The prison is talking to Bath College media students about making a short film about the project.

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