What thoughts did you have about starting this particular group (FreeMindFreePeople) run by Beyond Recovery?

My initial thoughts were yes, maybe it will help but I thought that I have already “got it” from attending a previous BR group (on Delta wing). I thought that I already understood myself. I thought that I already knew myself and how my actions can affect others. So I was not sure how it would benefit me but I thought it will “look good“ for me to attend anyway.


And what was your actual experience like once participating in FreeMindFreePeople group?

I was really shocked because I understood the actual meaning behind IT - behind everything I thought I already knew. To start with it was a summary of what I thought I knew or got from previous groups but this time, I actually understood that I have a choice to make. For example, if someone annoys me, I have a choice. There is a thinking process between the situation and feelings and feelings make the behaviour. But there is a thinking process between those and that is my choice. The last session taught me forgiveness. I was in the room with the same guy who killed my friend but I did not recognise him. Whilst in the sessions I understood him as a person, I understood him for what he was as a person and I saw his remorse. I saw him as a human being, as one like me, not labelled as a “rival.” On a break he came and asked me “you don’t recognise me do you?” We shake hands. I never thought I would be in the same room with him and not hurt him.


How you would describe this particular experience?

A MIRACLE. This was a miracle. A heavy weight on my shoulder was lifted. It was like a closure. I realised that the moment I can see “the human” in someone I automatically think “if I fight, I fight with myself.” What is the point? He is like me, he is a human being like me, not labelled as “a rival.” The group I was in, the environment of the group allowed me to be myself, to open up about our feelings, not being judged. The environment provided in the group environment allows us to be us, to be real, to be ourselves, to be the person we are behind closed doors.


Any final words?

Beyond Recovery has to be the one thing that can actually change the world. Ok, maybe not the world but one generation, this generation. Look at all these youngsters, knife crime and stuff. This (Beyond Recovery) has to be one thing that can change this generation. I told the facilitator when I am released, I would like to get involved to help others to see what I see.


Also, I think that Beyond Recovery needs to keep going, to carry on to be supported by the prison, by the system and to be taken more seriously by the prison because it really does save lives.


Describe yourself before attending FreeMind,FreePeople group and after.

Before: naive in some aspects, felt “hard done by” and frustrated.

After: peaceful, free and compassionate.

What thoughts did you have about starting this particular group (FreeMindFreePeople) run by Beyond Recovery?

I did not know anything about this Programme. I did not know what Beyond Recovery was.


And what was your actual experience like once participating in FreeMindFreePeople group?

I’ve had a very good experience on the group because before coming on this group I felt a bit down in myself, not really fitting in in prison. I had no intention to be back in prison when I left prison last time, but I have missed court and this is why I am here again. Well, I cannot say that isn’t my fault that I miss my appointments with probation but there was so much going on in my life at the time that I had to deal with. For example, when I left prison and went home, I learnt that my missus cheated on me, my daughter was taken away from me. I tried to kill myself 3 times. So, all this happened when I missed my probation but no one in Court listened to this. So, when they put me back in prison, I felt I didn’t fit in, being surrounded by people with so much serious crime. However, coming on this group I realised that no matter what the crime you are looking at each other with respect, regardless of the crime and who you are.


How you would describe this particular experience?

As I said, before joining this group I did not fit in in prison. But once in this group, I realised that everyone looks at each other with respect. We all had respect for each other regardless of the crime. I think that a lot of people on this group have changed, and I have changed too. I used to have ‘commitment’ issues, not really trusting that someone is for me. When I was 3 years old my dad died and then my mum re-married when I was 5 years old. My stepdad was beating me up, was being nasty to me so, I left. I left my stepdad and my mum. When I was 12 years old, I went to live with my real dad’s family down south. They had promised to look after me and it was good for about 2 years but then they started not caring about me. I could have taken a train and been gone for a month and they never bothered to find out where I was. I felt that they abandoned me too.


But since being on this group I started having a different understanding about life. I realised that I do not have to wait for people to help me, or to look after me. I realised that I do need to depend on people or to depend on things. Last night whilst in my cell I started thinking about my future, I started making plans for my future. I said to myself, I will go and get my driving licence, I will never drive without a driving licence no matter how much I need to wait or to work hard to get it. Then I will buy a van and work legally! I want to see my daughter, to be a father to her. I want to stop mixing with the wrong crowd. I realised last night that all I need is my daughter, my missus, my mum and my brother.


Any final words?

I feel that my aim has changed altogether. And I wish to dedicate my life to help others to change to. Maybe, I can help my brother and others not to do what I did.


Choose 3 words to described yourself before and after:

Before: doubtful, stressed, depressed.

After: positive thinking, happier and better in myself, goal orientated.

What thoughts did you have about starting this group (FreeMind FreePeople) run by Beyond Recovery?

I did not know what Beyond Recovery was. In general, I did not like attending courses. But once I was on the course. I felt it was more like a group, not a course.


And what was your actual experience once you were participating in FreeMind FreePeople group?

Since I attended Beyond Recovery it helped a lot in general. It helped in the way I am dealing with my day to day life here in jail, but also in my relationships on the outside. Now I am able to think before I act. My mind is clear and I feel free! When I attended the group, it took me a while to see that there is a ‘gap’ between thinking and acting. And I have seen it! Even the staff from the unit have noticed that change in me. Also, my family have noticed too. Yes, my family have noticed the change too.


Now I don’t build up a big story in my head that is not true and is stressing me out and making me all over the place. I do not do this anymore! Because of this my life is easier, I feel so much happier and I feel free now. Since I started Beyond Recovery I have changed and now I have good jobs as unit cleaner and servery worker. The prison staff can see the change in me.


Actually, I was upset that the group was so short. The group made me feel ‘at home’. I want to be in contact with Beyond Recovery upon my release and in the future to support others the way I was supported. I have found something that I know I can be, a support for others. I found something I already have: this desire to help others. I went through everything: foster care, lost my childhood, lost my siblings… I have the ‘perfect background’ to help others. I want to be in contact with Beyond Recovery in the future and to support others.


Any final words?

I have found out what I want to do: to help others. And it is funny because, randomly, my name was put down on this group then I have found out something that I already knew. So, I guess it was God. I would recommend to everybody this group. They all should come to this group. As for me, I wish to keep in touch with Beyond Recovery after release and the Beyond Recovery facilitators will come and see me before I’m released. I have seen the facilitators a few days ago and I know how to get in touch for support group after my release. I will definitely keep in touch with Beyond Recovery.


Describe yourself before attending the FreeMind FreePeople group and after:

Before:           out of control, lost, not happy

After:              happy in myself, life is easier now, feel free in myself

How would you describe the way you were before the group?

Before the group I used to be a very naughty boy. I was a rogue. I wouldn’t listen to anyone!


What thoughts did you have about starting the Beyond Recovery Group?

Firstly, I didn’t know what Beyond Recovery was. But I will give anything a try. If I like it, I like it, if I don’t it’s not for me. I will be honest, I did not like the first session. Thinking back, I guess that because the group was on the wing, I was distracted by the noise. Everyone was on the wing, playing pool and stuff, so I was distracted by all that. I think that’s what it was. The group was alright, though. I said to myself, “You know, this group is only three days, you can manage that”. I don’t know what it was that made me go back for the second session, but I went. I thought “You know what, if I came for the second time, I must like it then!” Actually, I learnt something the second time. I learnt about ‘the circle’.


What difference did the group make to you?

Now, when I feel down or upset or when I feel angry, I know how to deal with it. If someone is winding me up (like the officers) I know I can block that out. However, I do not know how to control it enough as there are times when those people are getting to me. But when this happens, I think about ‘the circle’ which the facilitators talked about in the session. I tell myself “Don’t let that get to you, don’t have that thought of anger, don’t let the thought transform into an action.”


Beyond Recovery has made me sensible and a nicer person. They made me do a lot of thinking. Actually, I’m very happy that I’ve done this course because I don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t. I would be all over the place. Beyond Recovery picked me up and cheered me up. When I am in my cell now and seeing my three certificates from Beyond Recovery on my walls, it makes me happy and I feel that I have achieved something.


What do you think of the group now?

I think that Beyond Recovery is a lot better now. Last time I attended it was for younger people, for 18 to 21 years old. I did learn that when there are lots of young, wild offenders in one place they might say “I don’t like it, I don’t learn anything here.” But they keep coming back, a second and third time, so I’m saying to myself, “Well, you must learn something then, you actually like it but you don’t  want to say it in front of your mates because you’re afraid you might look like an idiot in front of them.”


Is there anything memorable that you’ve taken away from this experience?

The most memorable thing is the circle which was drawn on the board in the second session - about thought, feelings and action.


Another memorable moment was when the facilitator, Derek, shared his experiences with the group. When he was out with his mates, he had a strop with other people. That makes me think that others are going through similar things to what I have experienced. This is generally true in life - whatever happens, whatever you’re feeling in your cell at night, everyone else has probably had that thought before you.  And this is nice to know!


Would you like to add anything else?

It is quite nice to know that everyone else has their story. When you are in a room full of people and they share their story, it’s good to know that even though you’re in jail, you still have that contact with others and you connect with them. Also, when you’re on the wing and feel down you can take someone to one side and talk with them. The connection in the room continues onto the wing too!


Choose 3 words to describe yourself before attending Beyond Recovery and after:

Before:  angry, emotional and lost

After:     happy (I am always happy and always smiling now), more mature and respectful
              (I have manners and show respect to others).