Meeting the murderer: Profile of victim-offender dialogue facilitator
from the entry on Grits for Breakfast:
See an interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor about a boat builder from Maine who runs a non-profit facilitating victim-offender dialogue (VOD) between violent criminals and their victims or their families, which is an idea derived from "restorative justice" models.
5 amazing things I've heard during the Sycamore Tree Project(R)
by Martin Howard:
At first, it sounds like a bizarre social experiment - natural enemies placed together inside a prison to see if they can get along. Men convicted of violent crimes alongside victims of violent crime.
Even though the concept has been proven in over 25 countries, people still find it hard to comprehend the Sycamore Tree Project (STP). And it took a long time to convince the prison authorities in Queensland to allow it.
Restorative justice provides new path for prisoners
....This is no television prison. There is no guard or glass wall. There are no handcuffs or restraints, just a couple of cameras and a conversation. A conversation about where they came from, why they’re here, but most importantly a conversation about where they’re going. It’s a path with few options.
“On the other side of that door, it’s either hell or redemption,” Baumgardner says. “You choose.”
“That door” leads to the bowels of Jefferson City Correctional Center, a maximum security prison. Starr, Baumgardner and King have all chosen the latter path. Hell is what got them here. Restorative Justice offers them a chance to change that.
My experience with the Sycamore Tree Project(sm)
from the article by a British prison chaplain:
I’ve been facilitating the Sycamore Tree courses in my prison now for about eighteen months. Sycamore Tree is the Restorative Justice programme run by Prison Fellowship (http://www.pfi.org/). It is a six week course which runs one afternoon a week.
Over such time you would not expect very much to happen. How can you change a person’s outlook on their life in six short afternoons?
by Lynette Parker:
As I was browsing through Twitter feeds I saw a comment about an offensive apology letter. Of course I clicked the link to read the letter. I had to agree with Victim Support UK; the letter was offensive and disrespectful. I also agreed with the Twitter comment from Why Me?, “The problem with That Letter is there was no preparation first.”
Restorative practices in Hungary: An ex-prisoner is reintegrated into the community
from the article by Vidia Negrea:
As the representative of Community Service Foundation of Hungary, the Hungarian affiliate of the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), I participated in a group session of the Hungarian Crime Prevention and Prison Mission Foundation in summer 2009 (Sycamore Tree Project — or Zacchaeus Program in Hungary). There I met the governor of Balassagyarmat prison, where inmates were working in groups on issues related to their crimes and exploring ways to repair relationships they had damaged.
Some inmates began accepting responsibility for what they had done and were motivated to make things right and earn forgiveness of victims and their families. Prisoners made symbolic reparation in the form of community service within the prison, but there was still a lot to do to create opportunities for offenders to make contact with victims and shed the stigma of their offense by means of direct reparation. Also, prison management believed it important to support processes, acceptable to victimized families and communities, to help prisoners regain control of their lives and prevent reoffending.
from the video by Marilyn Armour:
Jason Shippy (student): I think the biggest surprise that I learned is that victims of crimes actually want to talk about the offense and actually kind of get a little upset that even people who are fairly close to them just pretend like the crime never happened or that the person who was murdered never existed.
The limits of empathy
....Empathy orients you toward moral action, but it doesn’t seem to help much when that action comes at a personal cost. You may feel a pang for the homeless guy on the other side of the street, but the odds are that you are not going to cross the street to give him a dollar.
There have been piles of studies investigating the link between empathy and moral action. Different scholars come to different conclusions, but, in a recent paper, Jesse Prinz, a philosopher at City University of New York, summarized the research this way: “These studies suggest that empathy is not a major player when it comes to moral motivation. Its contribution is negligible in children, modest in adults, and nonexistent when costs are significant.” Other scholars have called empathy a “fragile flower,” easily crushed by self-concern.
A scary, but exciting prospect
Recently, I was in the Bahamas to conduct a training seminar on the Sycamore Tree Project® for Prison Fellowship Bahamas. A diverse group of people including prison officers, volunteers, and police officers gathered to learn about this in-prison restorative justice programme. Through the day and half of training two emotions stood out: fear and excitement.
For many, especially the prison officers, the idea of bringing victims into prison to meet face-to-face with prisoners (but not their own offenders) was novel and a bit overwhelming. Although the programme has a positive track record in close to twenty countries, the training participants still had serious concerns about how this would work. For one thing, how do you handle victim anger? Why would victims want to go into prison? Isn’t this just setting up an explosive situation?
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.