LONDON – For the first time, I attended The Longford Lecture – an annual lecture held in Westminster focused on addressing prison reform.
The lecture is organized by The Longford Trust, a British charity centered on providing ex-prisoners a chance to rebuild their lives through scholarships and mentor programs.
Mina Smallman – the first Black female archdeacon of the Church of England – delivered this year’s lecture, called “Catch them before they fall.”
In 2020, a man murdered Smallman’s two daughters, Nicole and Bibaa, in a north London park.
I found it thought-provoking how Smallman identified that we must address issues at home to prevent crime.
‘‘We’re the watchers,” said Smallman about her daughter’s killer. “We needed to catch him before he fell.”
Smallman began her Nov. 22 lecture by talking about her experience as a former teacher.
“We have to take responsibility for those we have failed in the education system.”
When Ronke Phillips, a presenter with the British broadcaster ITV News who was also on stage, asked if early intervention was the best solution to prevent crime, Smallman agreed.
Last year, The Longford Trust visited my school with ex-prisoner scholars to give a talk about their work. I did not hesitate to volunteer for the lecture as I was interested in hearing how Smallman was able to forgive the killer of her daughters.
Smallman told the audience her husband has asked how she can forgive the killer of their daughters.
Her response was, ‘‘He’s not in my head, he is a non-entity.’’
I found it interesting how Smallman linked her forgiveness to her faith, calling it a ‘‘gift given from God.’’
But Smallman expressed how she is still unable to forgive the police officers who shared photos of her dead daughters’ bodies in WhatsApp group chats.
She compared their actions to ‘‘an acid attack, only on the inside.’’
Smallman concluded her lecture with powerful words.
‘’When we hold onto hatred and not give forgiveness, we are imprisoned as well,” she said. “We are held captive by that anger and frustration.’’
While prison reform is an issue that needs attention to end the cycle of crime, I learned through Smallman’s lecture that forgiveness is something you do for yourself, not others.
Anjola Fashawe is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.