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Victims and inmates connect through community project at Erlestoke
10:20am Thursday 3rd October 2013 in Latest News
A collaborative piece of artwork has been created by victims of crimes and inmates at Erlestoke Prison near Devizes.
The innovative project helped those who worked on the mosaic to understand the impact of crime on victims and prisoners.
The mosaic is now on permanent display in the grounds of the Category C prison near the main entrance.
Prison governor Andy Rogers described the mosaic as “breathtaking” and said when he first saw it it brought him to tears.
Artist Maylee Christie, who had never worked in a prison before, ran painting workshops for prisoners and victims where they produced images to represent their feelings about the impact of crime.
She used their ideas to create the overall design, which features a bird moving from a place of isolation depicted by dark colours to a place of hope and joy where the colours are brighter.
She said: “It was one of the most inspirational and beautiful experiences of my life. I learned so much about forgiveness.”
Richard, 31, one of the prisoners who worked on the mosaic, took a victim awareness course early on in his sentence but said the mosaic project had been more powerful.
He said: “I didn’t have as much empathy towards victims as I do now. Working on the mosaic helped me put myself in their shoes and seeing things from a victim’s point of view. Before, I think I was a bit selfish towards victims of crime.”
A woman from Devizes, who has asked to remain anonymous, was one of the victims who worked on the mosaic and admitted the prospect of coming into Erlestoke Prison to work with prisoners scared her, but it was a revelation.
She said: “A lot of the offenders have also been victims and we had more in common than I would have imagined. I was painting the same thing as one of the prisoners and the barriers came down between us. One of the prisoners broke down in tears in response to what I had painted.”
The art was the idea of Debbie O’Shaughnessy, a probation officer at the prison who is also an artist, and was backed by Victim Support. It also had support from The Friends of Erlestoke Prison and Devizes Area Board, which each paid half the £3,000 cost.
Ms O’Shaughnessy said: “I thought a mosaic would be exactly right for a prison because mosaics are made of lots of tiny broken pieces that can come together to make something whole and new.”