[Please note: Names have been changed for the purpose of protecting the privacy of our students behind bars]
Wednesday June 29, 2016 – RJF, Worcester : Phase 2
On Day 7, Jennifer Chatburn who is no stranger to the Restorative Justice Process shared her testimony of being a victim of crime. Her father was the victim of the widely publicized “crossbow murder” in the early 90’s, and she shared her story of pain, forgiveness and healing. At the end of her sharing, our ladies behind bars were given the opportunity to come to her as she stood in place of their victims, and confess, or apologize. This was a poignant moment for many ladies who wept remorsefully as they waited to approach Jenny. Many recognizing for the first time, the mess that they leave behind for the families of their victims.
On Day 8, we opened our day as any other, with reflections on yesterday’s sessions; specifically inviting feedback from those who approached Jenny. One woman approached the front, already in tears. She is facing a sentence for murdering her step daughter. Mandy told us, that as she heard Jenny ask the question “Why? ‘Why, my dad” she thought of the little girl whose life she had taken. She confessed to us all that as she lifted the pillow off the little girls face, thinking that her life had been snuffed out, that child used her last breath to utter one last question, “Why, mommy, why?”
A wave of emotion swept across the room, and one inmate in particular, Lisa got up with a cry and ran to the back of the room behind a curtain.
Mandy continued; “It was so hard for me to share this morning, because i know that one of my victims is in this room. You all know that ‘Aunty Lisa’ hates me, but maybe you don’t know why. She is the family of the father of the child that killed. And when Jenny mentioned yesterday that her offender didn’t just kill her dad, she also died that day; I realized that i also killed Aunty Lisa; and I want to say I’m sorry”. Lisa cried loudly from the back. Crying out years of pain that she had been carrying around. Mandy went on “I am sorry Aunty Lisa. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” she wept.
At this point the pain in the room was so thick, it was tangible. As the Holy Spirit convicted each lady individually of the pain that they have been carrying around, we invited them up for prayer, and invited them through the book of Isaiah chapter one to give their pain to Christ, and be cleansed by His blood. More than 20 women stood weeping under the weight of their sin and guilt. And, as their tears of mourning turned to tears of relief and hope, there among the crowd Lisa and Mandy wept in one another’s arms.
After this incredible time of prayer, waiting for no invitation, Lisa approached the front. She confessed that when she was sentenced and transferred to Worcester Correctional Centre, she knew that Mandy was there, and wanted to kill her. “All this time, I have had one question burning inside me, and today Mandy answered that question”, she said “All this time, i have been wanting to know how did you do it.”
As she looked Mandy in the eyes, she told her, “I cannot speak for the rest of the family, but today, i forgive you. And I’m sorry for the pain that I too have inflicted on you.”
Right there, in the room, a VOD (victim/ offender dialogue) was facilitated behind bars. A door opened for healing and restoration. A door that no one but God could have predicted or opened.