24 July 2019
How often have you made an assumption about someone? No matter who you are, we are all guilty of it from time to time.
Being completely honest, people make assumptions about me all the time, and it is quite uncomfortable! Looking at social media or the business headlines, people have a preconceived idea of who I am. When they meet me and I am still very much a man whose heart is in the mountains, they are often surprised.
My podcast guest this week is a prime example of how assumptions can be so very far from reality.
Born into one of Britain’s richest families, it would be easy to make assumptions that this is a person born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and make more assumptions based on that. How wrong we’d be.
Whilst people assume, she says, that she is “75 [years old] with a purple rinse and wears pearls,” this is actually someone who has dedicated their time to reforming prisons – in fact, Lady Edwina Grosvenor describes herself as a prison philanthropist.
Challenging belief systems
It all began at 12 years old when Edwina’s father took her to a rehab centre in Liverpool. Her parents wanted to educate Edwina and her sister about drugs, so they took them to the people who really knew what they were talking about. The teenage sisters chatted with two heroin addicts for an hour, asking them anything and everything. It was, as Edwina describes, the most impactful hour of her life.
From that moment, she has been drawn to supporting those affected by crime. She is committed to learning every day and “challenging her own belief systems”.
In this episode of Mind Your Own Business, we chatted about her visit at just 18 years old to the notorious Central Jail in Kathmandu. Here she worked for an organisation releasing innocent children from prison. She saw children living in jail with their parents, who were either convicted or awaiting trial. The trial process could be as long as 12 years. The children had no separation or protection from the convicted sex offenders with whom they shared a prison.
Edwina says that whilst she physically walked out of that prison, she never left it emotionally.
One Small Thing
Her relentless passion for breaking down assumptions is inspiring to say the least. She is constantly looking for the reasons why people commit crimes, rather than simply writing them off for doing so.
Her organisation, One Small Thing, works to help prison officers understand trauma through a gender lens; through a woman’s eyes and through a man’s eyes. The stats show that trauma is typically very different for each gender. She says, generally speaking women are assaulted and murdered in their own homes. On the reverse, whilst that still happens for men, men are more likely to be assaulted or murdered outside the home.
The team works to train officers to understand trauma and provide interventions so that prisoners can speak together about the trauma that they have suffered. Stats show that it makes a significant impact, bringing down levels of PTSD, anxiety and depression.
When you consider that there are approximately 87,000 people in the prison population, 4,000 of those women, that is a huge proportion of society to write off.
Seeing the work that Lady Grosvenor and others like James Timpson are doing to help reform these ex-prisoners and help them build a life after prison is hugely inspiring. It is a fascinating chat that you can listen to now on your podcast platform. It’s a conversation that will certainly open your eyes to the truth behind some of the people who find themselves in prison. I think you’re going to be quite surprised.