"Just doing your time doesn't mean you're sorry"

Last week inmates of Philadelphia’s Graterford Prison who have completed the not-so-coincidentally named Let’s Circle Up restorative justice program screened CIRCLE UP in their monthly alumni gathering. This is exactly the kind of setting in which we’re most excited to share the film!

The inmates talked about how they can apply the lessons of the film in their own lives and used it to reflect on both times they have harmed others and times they experienced harm. Facilitator Anthony Marqusee shared notes from their amazing revelations :

  • “Just doing your time doesn't mean you're sorry. Made me think, what am I doing to show it in my situation?”

  • “You can forgive someone and it can still hurt.”

  • “It seemed like part of Janet's pain regarding those who did not admit guilt actually came from her empathy because she knew those who were not admitting it couldn't move forward.”

  • The film highlighted the “dilemma of fighting a case but not wanting to have it seem like denying accountability. In my case, I went back to court to challenge my illegal sentence because I wanted the sentences for two charges to run concurrently, not consecutively. I thought it was just a legal issue and was surprised when the DA dragged the victim back into court. I had to make sure clarify to them that it was about the sentence, not guilt, and that I did not want them to think I was denying my guilt.”

  • About the "I'm sorry" "I know" interaction between Janet and AJ: "I long to hear that and be that way towards others who hurt me."

  • “It takes guts to sit with someone who caused you harm.”

  • “I liked how the mothers and sisters were trying to stop the domino effect, trying to help younger people.”

  • “(I) valued the fact that the VOD didn't ‘take’ right away for AJ – it was a few years before it sunk in. Showed that we can't measure restorative justice processes by what happens the next day. The gift may be a seed that was planted that sprouts much later.”

  • “I imagine what my life could have been like if I had had this process or knowledge as a teenager when I was starting to get drawn in to destructive activities.”