A typical prisoner’s comment during one of the many Forgiveness Project workshops we have funded.

Listening to the events from a victim really gives you insight on how bad the impact our crimes can cause on them and their families. Prisoners only really see the impact from a statement or in theDco … but when you hear a victim of crime tell you first hand the impact really makes you think about your actions. After today I have been reflecting on how powerful forgiveness can be, it really can change your life for the better.

Governor, HMP Guys Marsh

I am delighted that the Friends of Guys Marsh have taken the time and energy to organise this exhibition. Art is an important way of engaging offenders and developing skills and opportunities for leading law abiding lives in the community after release. I hope the public have been able to get a glimpse of the talent and potential of some of our offenders (and staff), and that this shows in a small way some of the productive work we are doing to provide opportunities to help reduce reoffending and protect the public in the future.

Former prisoner, HMP Guys Marsh

Thank you for your letter and the help you have given me towards my accommodation and course through Mosaic Partnership. I cannot thank you enough as I was on the verge of being recalled straight away. You have enabled me to go back to my home area and continue with the resettlement plan I and Guys Marsh staff have been working on for 3 years. Once again, I thank you and will be more than willing to write back and let you know how I have progressed. And hopefully I will be in a position to give something back in the future.

Mentor, The Prince’s Trust

Sometimes the seeds you plant really do grow. Neither Martin nor I have forgotten the help which you gave in what must have seemed rather unpromising circumstances

Prisoner, HMP Guys Marsh

Thank you for providing this day for our family – it was so lovely for us all. Prisoner’s wife who had brought her ten year daughter to a special family day visit

I just want to thank you for helping me by providing my cycling clothing and equipment so that I can safely get to my voluntary placement. I’m enjoying the opportunity and I’m grateful for the help you’ve provided.

Footprints mentor, supporting former prisoner

You have been a marvellous organisation to deal with and I cannot thank you enough for the speed and efficiency you dealt with Mr X’s request.

Former prisoner, HMP Guys Marsh

I would like to say a very big thank you to all for supplying me with a set of scaffolding tools. You have helped me on my way toward getting me back into full time employment. I am working as a labourer at the minute but now with tools and CSCS card I can go back into my old role as a scaffolder fixer.

Independent Monitoring Board for HMP Guys Marsh, 2011 Report

HMP Guys Marsh is very fortunate in having the PERC role and the Board wishes to acknowledge the major contribution made by the FOGM in delivering funding to pay for the PERC service for three years…. The Board considers the assistance of the PERC has been life changing for a number of prisoners in the reporting period…. The Board records their thanks for the many achievements of the FOGM in the reporting period including direct support to the work of the Prison and tireless efforts to secure additional funds directed to improvements in a range of facilities and activities for prisoners.

8 year old son of a prisoner, following a special family day visit with his father

Got to spend time with my dad who was able to be more involved in taking part in the activities with me which was important.

Deputy Governor, HMP Guys Marsh

I am writing to express the thanks and support of the Governor and staff at HMP Guys Marsh for the visitor’s transport that you kindly provide for us. The importance of maintaining family ties for those in a Prison setting cannot be understated and the bus service from the station to the jail provides a vital component of that service that is offered to prisoners’ families…It is invaluable in helping prisoners maintain meaningful relationships and is an important part of our overall strategy for the Children and Families Resettlement Pathway. I am convinced that your support plays a significant part in helping maintain these strong family ties and in turn greatly assists the process of reducing re-offending.

Former prisoner, HMP Guys Marsh

I would like to thank you for your kind donation. This will enable me to aquire the tools I require for my future. My family and myself are so greatfull to you for allowing me to have the start when released from prison. I hope that all the work that I have done for the prison + cafe will be able to be continued by other prisoners in the future, as this has helped my time, and my self as a person. Thank you for your support and your kind donation.

The Christmas cards were an excellent idea. Please tell participants we really appreciate them. Thank You   – Sarah

Many thanks to you all for helping men to set up their business ventures throughout the year and may the lord bless you abundantly. Have a merry Christmas and remain blessed. – Morris


On my arrival at Guys Marsh some 20 to 30 of us lads were billeted in wooden huts at the far end of ground close to the huts. Then the Governor would the site or, as I remember it, the lower end of the borstal, close to adjacent fields.

For the next twelve months I was engaged on painting and repair work, as were most of the lads, and it is a skill I maintain to this day.

Our day would start at 7.00 am with an officer entering our hut and ringing away at a hand-bell to rouse us all, at which we would rise, make up our sheets and blankets into a bed pack military style, shave, dress and be lined up for breakfast, which was served in a separate hut.

The breakfast consisted of porridge, bread and margarine accompanied on some days with a portion of ham, and a drink of tea served from a bucket. By 8.00 am we were ready for the first
activity of the day, which started immediately we left the dining area, when we marched to a parade ground close to the huts. Then the Governor would inspect us. He was accompanied by the Chief Officer, a rank that no longer exists.
Missing buttons, unpolished boots, being unshaven or anything which took the whim of the Governor was sufficient to be placed on report, the result of which was likely to be work tasks during the evening, loss of canteen or earnings which were never enough anyway to buy more than a quarter of an ounce of tobacco, cigarette papers and matches which would be split with a needle to make then go further. Lighters in prison were years away.

After working away for the morning it would be time for lunch, which was never anything more than basic, and certainly, unlike today, there was no choice. In those days it really was take it or
leave it.


Quite clearly times have moved on since 1962-1963, some 42 years ago, when, at the age of 16, I arrived at Guys Marsh from the borstal allocation wing of Wormwood Scrubs prison in London, which was a grim fortress for any young lad of that age. It was at that stage that I was introduced to sewing mailbags, from which us lads were able to earn the few shillings to purchase a small amount of tobacco.

I was amongst the first intake of borstal boys at Guys Marsh, which was a one-time hospital for American servicemen, something of which there still remained plenty of evidence.

The whole place was fairly desolate, and as an open borstal there were no fences, gates or bars.

In fact us lads could really just walk out, as a few did. They never returned when caught, but were sent to Portland, Rochester or Reading, which was the punishment borstal, and punishment it was with no talking, no smoking, no privileges and everything done at the double.

Of course, even at Guys Marsh, like all prisons and borstals, there was no TV, no telephones, no wearing of one’s own clothes, one visit a month for 30 minutes and only one letter a week was allowed in and out, unless one had purchased an extra letter from the canteen. We were allowed one bath a week, there were no showers, no private cash allowed, no listeners, lights out at 10pm, compulsory haircuts of a short back and side variety, bed packs made up every morning and daily inspections of room and cells.


My first winter at Guys Marsh will always be something that will never be forgotten for it was the worst winter for decades and we were completely snowed in as were many local farmers and it was to us borstal boys that they looked to dig them out.

For days on end we would set off in the snow dressed only in overalls and a blouson type coat and in spite of the snow being waist high at times we were not provided with Wellington boots, gloves  or anything warmer.  Our leather boots became sodden with water and many of the lads were reduced to tears as they froze so it was always a welcome sight when on reaching a farm the farmer would invite us for hot drinks and refreshments, sometimes cigarettes.

Sometimes about midday the borstal’s tractor would appear towing behind it a laundry basket in which there were urns of hot Soup and sandwiches and that was all that we were to get until we arrived back at Guys Marsh late afternoon.

The work ethic was always a strong point in all penal establishments in those days but there was little to occupy oneself with during the evenings and weekends; no gym, TV, pool tables or even radios. The only gym activity was compulsory exercise military fashion on the parade ground. Church attendance and education were compulsory and it was in the very small education department in one of the huts that I succeeded in gaining 4 GCES. This was not out of the norm, for lads were encouraged in the areas of education and I do not recall there being a problem of the lack of literacy skills that seem to exist today.