Sycamore Tree: Week 3
A week with huge expectations: we have three visitors coming with us. Ann (not her real name) a young lady, victim of a robbery, whose car was violently attacked while she was in it and whose bags were stolen and Ray and Vi, whose son Christopher was murdered by a gang of violent youths high on alcohol and drugs. Ann and Ray and Vi are effectively surrogate victims for the men - a taster, in a group, of the experience of a victim – offender conference or mediation.
Victim impact programming in corrections: A team approach to reducing recidivism
from the note by Verna Wyatt in The Wall:
At first glance, it might seem counter-intuitive for victim advocates to work with inmates. However, the truth is, victim advocates and corrections professionals are not adversaries. We actually share a common goal: “no more victims.” Conducting Victim Impact classes for the incarcerated is a team approach to preventing victimization. There have been several studies looking at the effectiveness of victim impact programs across the country. A Iowa Department of Correction report, using two evidence-based studies, concluded victim impact is a contributing factor in reducing recidivism.
[You Have the Power (YHTP)] developed our own Victim Impact Curriculum based on our experience as victim advocates. We’ve learned from our class participants that the majority of offenders never think about their victim as a human being. Many never even think about their victim at all. One of our offender participants told us, “I’ve been incarcerated for over twenty years, and I never once thought about my victim until this class.”
Victims confront thief in jail
from the article in The Northern Echo:
The meeting was arranged by police as part of a restorative justice project and Mrs Turnbull, 57, of Deneside, had second thoughts about going along.
She said: “I had decided I was not going to go. I felt as if I could not face meeting him.
“It was only because the police turned up on my doorstep to pick me up that I went along because I did not want to waste their time.”
Mrs Turnbull spent 90 minutes with the offender in Durham Prison, where he is serving a five-year sentence.
So how do you know that an offender means it when they say sorry?
from Dave Walker's blog entry:
I attended a session in a well known, inner city prison full of local, inner city, young men with all the airs and graces of inner city life, drugs, violence and gang culture. These things don’t cease upon sentencing – if anything they can sometimes be more intense on a prison wing than on the street. Status can be everything on the wing and a new pair of trainers will do wonders for you on the respect scale.
To see a young man in an environment like this full of masculine front stand up to read a letter he has written to the parents of another young man he had beaten up in a gang related incident. To see this man physically shaking and weeping in front of the room I have described. To see some of the other men welling up at what they are hearing. To hear the regret that the realisation of their actions has induced: a realisation not at all prompted by the court process. To witness all this is the only way to have that big question answered. This is what I witnessed and I have absolutely no doubt as to their sincerity.
Awesome things happen when people come together
Recently, I met with representatives from Prison Fellowship Italy (PF Italy) visiting the Washington, DC area. In early 2010, a colleague and I had visited Italy to train members of the new organisation in the Sycamore Tree Project® so I was really looking forward to hearing about their experiences and the lessons learned. I wasn’t prepared for the awe inspiring stories that they told.
The Sycamore Tree Project® is an in-prison restorative justice programme bringing together unrelated victims and prisoners for a series of six to eight sessions. Through the sessions, participants explore the impact of crime, taking responsibility, confession, repentance, making amends, forgiveness and reconciliation. PF Italy worked quickly to implement this programme in Italian prisons but faced a few obstacles. In the end, the prison administration allowed them to start but with the proviso that the first group consist of prisoners who were mafia members convicted of committing murder and survivors of victims of such mafia activity. I remember receiving that news and thinking, “That’s not where I would want to start.”
Interview with Debbie, a rape victim of Robert Power
from the interview by Ines Aubert:
Ines Aubert was a pen pal of Robert Powers who had been sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl. She discovered over time that Robert had changed profoundly and that he wanted, among other things, to extend an apology to any of his victims who wished to receive that.
This took on some urgency at the end of 2010 as Robert neared the end of his life (he died of cancer on December 3). Ines contacted restorative justice consultant and RJOnline Correspondent Lisa Rea for assistance, but they were unable to find a way to reach out to Robert's victims. Lisa wrote about this in an earlier blog entry on RJOB.
Commenting on an article about Robert's death in a Florida newspaper, Ines wrote that he had wanted to apologize before his death but had been unable. Another reader -- one of Robert's victims -- replied to Ines that she had forgiven Robert. The two were able to connect, and Ines recently interviewed Debbie about her experience as a victim and the reasons for her forgiveness. The following is a short excerpt of an answer Debbie gave to Ines' question about how she felt when she learned that Robert had a pen pal.
The promise of restorative justice: New approaches for criminal justice and beyond
Reviewed by Martin Wright
It is becoming increasingly clear that the principles of restorative justice can be used, as the editors say, outside the formal criminal justice system, and this book bears witness to that. Half is about criminal justice, and half about other applications in schools and elsewhere. The contributors reflect the book’s origins among a group at Fresno Pacific University in California, but other chapters come from Bulgaria, Canada, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.
1000th Sycamore Tree - Restorative Justice programme changes prisoner’s lives
Prison Fellowship’s restorative justice programme Sycamore Tree achieves a milestone today (14th December) when the 1000th programme is completed.
Over 30 Prisons and Young Offenders Institutions in England and Wales offer the programme and around 2,000 learners participate every year. The 1000th Sycamore Tree is being offered at HMP Wayland, Norfolk.
Sycamore Tree raises the awareness of the impact of crime on victims and teaches the principles and application of restorative justice.
Against my will
by Radha Stern
Radha Stern's son Christopher was murdered in 1996. This is her story of how meeting with prisoners, and eventually with the man who killed her son, has helped her find relief and comfort.
Getting into a prison is intimidating. Accompanied by my prison escort, I went to the first gate, presented my ID to a guard who carried a gun. I signed in, was approved and went to the next gate to meet another armed guard and pass through a metal detector. After that gate, I went to another entrance with a guard and gun, signed in, was checked in and approved by the computer, was scanned with a hand-held metal detector, and stamped under the left wrist with the daily stamp. Then I went into a Sally port a large cell – where a huge door slams shut with a resounding “clank.” I was held there until the opposite door opened with another loud “clank,” and I entered another Sally port, which then unlocked and allowed me access into a large open quad.
Prisons, rehabilitation and justice
by Lynette Parker
Recently, I read an article about the struggles faced by the state of Florida after the US Supreme Court banned sentences of life without parole for juveniles who do not kill anyone. In the discussion over the need to revisit cases and re-sentence the offenders, one retired judge was quoted:
“There are no resources in prisons for rehabilitation,'' the former judge said. ``You give him 30 years, and he'll get out when he's 45, what's he going to do? Re-offend. Some people, regardless of their age, need to be put away forever.”