Collapsing barriers between victims and offenders
In mid-July, Prison Fellowship Italy completed the first Sycamore Tree Project® (STP) course in Modena Prison. Nine prisoners and five crime survivors came together to share their stories and develop a mutual respect for each other.
In a press conference held at the end of the course, the prison director, Rosa Alba Casella, described her initial scepticism about allowing the programme in the facility. However, the experiences of the nine participating prisoners and the intense interest from the rest of the inmate population convinced her of the usefulness of STP.
Seeing the Other Side
From the article on PFI.org:
Once so full of fear that she could not sleep or speak, Melissa now stood before a group of prisoners to read aloud a letter she wrote to the man whose crime tormented her for years. "What you did to me 14 years ago changed my life forever,” she read from her letter. She was recalling the day when a man held a gun to her head during a robbery at the bank where she worked in Queensland, Australia. While the robbery lasted only a short time, the ramifications from it continue to affect Melissa today. “I lost years of my life and years from my children’s life,” she lamented. “I prayed the world would stop. The world kept spinning, and while other lives thrived, mine stood still.”
Empowered Victims & Moral Perpetrators: A Needs-Based Model of Reconciliation
At a recent workshop at Leiden University on Obstacles and Catalysts for Peaceful Behavior, Nurit Shnabel presented exciting research distinguishing the needs of victims and perpetrators in interpersonal and intergroup conflicts. According to Shnabel and colleagues’ Needs-Based Model of Reconciliation, victims of conflict experience a psychological loss of status and honor, thus undermining their identities as powerful actors. Perpetrators, on the other hand, experience a psychological loss of social acceptance, thus threatening their identities as moral actors. Accordingly, victims and perpetrators are differentially motivated to restore these respective identities, and interactions that do so will increase their willingness to reconcile....
What if we gave victims of serious crimes the opportunity to face the offenders?
There has been much speculation about the factors that might lead someone to commit the kind of crime that was perpetrated against Mikey Partida. While some of it may be premature it is a normal human response to try to make sense of something that is so senseless.
….Lisa Rea, founder of Restorative Justice International, who has worked in restorative justice since 1992 believes that victims of crime do not want some vague sense of "closure" but rather they want to regain a sense of safety, security and healing. She argues in a 2012 article that for many victims the healing process would be facilitated by an opportunity to face the offender, ask him/her questions, describe the harm that was done, and seek a way for the harms done to them to be made right. She notes: "...(T)hroughout my work the number of victims who are seeking to participate in some kind of restorative justice dialogue is increasing."
Why go there?
That’s the question that arises most often when I mention my visits with inmates in Wisconsin’s prison system. Why go there? Why would I, who lost a beloved family member to violent crime, want to “go there”—emotionally, let alone physically? Why do I spend three consecutive days of my discretionary time locked in intense conversation with convicted felons, many of whom have committed violent crimes? Why would anyone want to do that?
My own journey to prison began over 25 years ago, when my 88-year-old grandmother and her two elderly friends were kidnapped after attending a charity event in my home town. Their kidnapper drove them to an isolated, wooded location and brutally kick-boxed them to death. Within days, he was captured, and within months, he was tried and convicted.
Evaluation of The Forgiveness Project within prisons
The Forgiveness Project (TFP) is a UK based charity that uses real stories to explore how ideas around forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution can have a positive impact on people’s lives. One aspect of the charity’s work is a programme run within prisons, targeted at the early stages of a sentence.
Unite offering prisoner mediation service at Kirklevington Grange Prison
....Mr James said the focus was always on the long-term goal of reducing reoffending. “We’re also providing a victim-offender mediation service for those Kirklevington prisoners who agree to talk to their victims and where the victim agrees to meet the perpetrator.
“This is one way a prisoner can show they have taken responsibility for their actions. They may want to offer an explanation to the victim. They may want to say sorry and agree a way to make amends.”
Restorative justice behind bars
This summer, Seattle University's Criminal Justice program took students out of the classroom and into prison cells. SU’s criminal justice chair and a sociology professor teamed up to create a new pilot course that provided a unique learning experience for students.
Power of One: Restorative justice couples victims with offenders
from the article on CTV.ca:
....A woman named Marité has been taking part in the process, not by facing her sexually-abusive father, but rather, another man who committed similar acts.
She said that results have helped her cope with the damage she suffered.
"For him it was like I was his daughter," said Marité. "And I was able also to express my anger to him and that's what he wanted rather than silence from his daughter."
"I can now go forward because I'm not bound to my father anymore. I can leave him go."
Restorative justice: Using psychology to change the way offenders think
A five-day programme for convicted offenders has been shown to be effective in increasing their levels of concern for their victims and motivation to change. The Supporting Offenders through Restoration Inside (SORI) programme, which has been piloted in seven prisons across the UK, is the subject of a study published in the journal Criminological and Legal Psychology today.