A mother's call for second chances: PET's Carol Concert 2017
30 Nov 2017
"We are the people and we have to make that change. We must continue to have that spirit of giving- giving whatever we can to make this society a better place.”
A mother who lost her son to knife crime shared her message of reaching forgiveness and helping others find hope, in the powerful centrepiece of PET’s Carol Concert last night.
Pastor Lorraine Jones said:
“If we can get into the prisons and educate these young men and young women, then they will come out and be better citizens in our communities and another family will not have to face being a victim of crime.”
Dwayne was just 20 when he was killed. As a pastor and community activist, his mother has gone on to continue the youth programme he started and has led restorative justice sessions in prisons. She spoke about visiting a prison and being given a gift by a prisoner - a wishing well made out of matchsticks. “It was around my birthday,” she said. “He told me: it’s from Dwayne.”
Hers was a fitting testament to the power of forgiveness and education, in a service raising awareness and funds for our Young People campaign. Until midday 5 December, all donations up to £13,500 will be doubled as part of the Big Give.
Pastor Jones said:
“I’ve always said this as a community campaigner - that the community are the majority. The government are really the minority, and we can’t leave everything to the government. We are the people and we have to make that change. We must continue to have that spirit of giving- giving whatever we can to make this society a better place.”
Her words come at a crucial time of need. Demand for courses has increased by 30% in the last year, and PET has also expanded its course provision to under 18s.
"The men and women who have applied to us to study courses have taken a massive step. We desperately want to support them."
Sharing this with the congregation at St Pauls Church, Covent Garden, PET’s Chair Alexandra Marks said: "The men and women who have applied to us to study courses have taken a massive step. We desperately want to support them, and we equally desperately don’t want to let them down by saying no for lack of funds.”
She read letters from some of our recent young learners, including Aabid, 19, who wrote: “When I first came to prison I thought I wouldn’t be able to achieve anything, but now I feel, even though I’m in a place like this, I can make something of my life.” and Jamie, 17, who PET funded to do English Language AS Level. He wrote: “Yes I did wrong, and I did let stupid decisions spoil my plans. I came to prison thinking the only option I had left was a life of crime, that I would only be known and seen as a criminal. I was wrong. Despite my wrongdoing, I ask for the opportunity to follow my dreams and further my education. I want this to make me and my family right, and to prove my doubters wrong.”
“My dream started as a young boy in a prison cell, being given a second chance."
Once in a Young Offenders Institute himself, Javed, 23, stood up to share his own story how learning to embroider in a prison workshop filled him with the inspiration and passion to start up his own business.
“The root of all inspiration is the idea that our lives are meaningful, when you have that feeling that your actions are meaningful you will become filled with strength.
“They say being an entrepreneur is being a doer not a dreamer, but my dream started as a young boy in a prison cell, being given a second chance. And this what Prisoners’ Education Trust do for thousands of people every year.”
PET alumnus LJ Flanders, told the audience about a remarkable year he has spent delivering his fitness and educational courses in HMP Wandsworth, as part of which he has encouraged men to take up PET distance learning courses.
"This is what I’ve done with my education in prison and it’s a massive thank you to PET for giving me the opportunity to get my personal training qualification in jail,” he said. “If I hadn’t got that qualification I wouldn’t have gotten a job upon leaving prison, I wouldn’t have written my book, I wouldn’t be working back in prison helping people now.”
By next year, said LJ, he hopes to be running his courses in prisons across the country, and employing 10 to 15 ex-prisoners.
PET President Judge John Samuels paid tribute to the achievements of LJ, who won a Criminal Justice Alliance award this year, and to the broader achievements of PET’s Policy work, including the development of the Prisoner Learning Alliance and the PUPiL (Prison University Partnerships in Learning) network, which the Big Give appeal will help fund.
Pride, said Samuels, was “usually a sin at Christmas”, but on this occasion it was “legitimate”.
“The pride of which I speak tonight is that which can be seen in the bumper crop of letters of thanks routinely received at the PET office from so many prisoners whose self-esteem has been restored as a consequence of recognising -through their success in distance learning- their innate ability to achieve personal rehabilitation.”
PET Alumnus and Hackney Wick FC founder Bobby Kasanga, along with fundraiser Steph Green read passages from the Bible, and choir Fever Pitch sang a beautiful mixture of classic and new festive pieces.
To donate to PET’s Big Give campaign and help young people achieve their potential and build better futures for themselves, their families and their communities, click here before midday 5 December.
All donations will be matched until we reach £13,500. This will go towards funding distance learning courses for people in prison aged under 26, and to supporting universities and prisons build aspirational learning partnerships.