SAVING FACE begins in an empty office room. Distant sounds of prison are heard. Jay, 31, sits opposite Catherine, 56. This is the first time they’ve met since Jay killed her son. She initiated the meeting in the hope that she’d find some answers, but once she’s faced with Jay, she can’t help but want him to suffer. She unleashes a torrent of pain, blame and anguish. It’s too much for Jay to take and he shuts down. The Facilitator works hard to remind them of their reasons for taking part in this restorative justice meeting, and he just about manages to keep them from walking out. Then, when Catherine asks Jay why he did this, his answer surprises her. It was an accident, he says, it could’ve been anyone. He felt pressured by his friends so he punched her son, never expecting he’d die. He tells her about the violence and neglect that he grew up around, and something shifts in her. Catherine begins to see Jay as a human. She realises they’re both lost and in torment. She wants to forgive him, but isn’t ready yet. Catherine suggests that with time forgiveness may be possible.
I’m adapting an extract from Two Corinthians, Chapter 2, Verses 6-8, about the power of forgiveness. It outlines how the weight of one’s guilty conscience and society’s punishment of someone who’s caused harm is enough to hold them accountable; any more punishment will push them away from repent and reform. This is one of the key messages of restorative justice, which is the subject of Saving Face. It dramatises a mother’s attempt to forgive the young man who killed her son. She does this first and foremost for herself, to move beyond being consumed by hatred and overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. However, by the end of the meeting, she understands that it’s also for him. It can free them both. The young man is stuck in prison, a space which harbours shame, resentment, silence and social marginalisation. The current state of prisons in the UK makes them some of the last places on earth where someone can turn their life around. By offering this young man a space to listen and be heard, the mother is giving him a lifeline and a chance to give something back to those he’s harmed.