New study concludes that victim awareness programme works
Oct 14, 2009
by Dan Van Ness
The Sycamore Tree Programme (STP), a victim awareness programme delivered by Prison Fellowship England and Wales since 1998, produces "significant positive attitudinal changes" in prisoners, making it less likely that they will commit crimes in the future. This is the finding of a new study that evaluated before and after questionnaires completed by 5,007 programme participants over the past three years.
It describes STP as follows:
The Sycamore Tree Programme is a victim awareness programme that teaches the principles and application of restorative justice. The content is covered in six sessions designed to enable prisoners to understand the impact of their crime on victims, families and the community. It also encourages prisoners to accept personal responsibility for their actions and points to the need to make amends. Surrogate victims come into prison to tell their stories. At the end of the programme, prisoners are given the opportunity to make a symbolic act of restitution, taking the first step towards making amends for their past behaviour. The programme is available to all regardless of faith, gender or age and is delivered by trained Prison Fellowship staff and volunteers.
The Programme consists of approximately 15 hours of structured discussion and activities and seeks to enable participants to:
- Understand the wider impact of their criminal behaviour and accept a greater level of personal responsibility.
- Identify with a victim’s experience of crime and the need for victim/offender forgiveness and reconciliation.
- Learn about the process of Restorative Justice and how offenders, victims and the wider community can take part.
- Plan steps to take to reduce offending behaviour whilst still in prison.
The questionnaire used to gather data for the study is known as Crime Pics II. It measures offenders' attitudes in five areas that have been shown to be predictive of future offending. It has been extensively used by the Ministry of Justice National Offender Management Service (NOMS) in England to assess the impact of intervention programmes.
The study concluded that the positive changes were associated with completion of STP. They were found among all groups of prisoners (male, female, adult and young prisoners), and in all penal institutional categories.
The research report can be found here.
Prison Fellowship England and Wales is a member of Prison Fellowship International (PFI), an association of 113 national prison ministry NGOs. PFI prepared a generic STP programme for use by its affiliates.
Two other studies using Crime Pics II have been completed. One was conducted by Sheffield Hallam University in 2005. Another measured the impact of the STP programme used by Prison Fellowship New Zealand. The previous studies madesimilar findings as the most recent, but the recent one studied a far larger number of responses than had the other two.