Prisoners and victims are invited to a promotional event in which they talk together about crime and justice. Prisoners are then invited to attend the eight-week course of the Sycamore Tree Project—Justice and Peace. Throughout eight weekly sessions, prisoners meet in small groups to learn about the ripple effects of crime and reflect on topics such as accountability, forgiveness, making amends, and conflict resolution. Victims join prisoners during two sessions to share their stories and reflect on ways to move forward. Upon course completion, prisoners are invited join a growth program in which they continue learning how to make changes in their lives to reduce crime and increase peace.
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Sean was a tough prison inmate — a well-known and feared guy within the system. So why was a hardened guy like Sean scared for the first time in his life? The answer —meeting real crime victims face-to-face. Because Sean was part of the Sycamore Tree Project. This 8-week faith-based program brings crime victims into prison to meet with inmates.
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What is STP?
Sycamore Tree is a volunteer-led victim awareness programme that teaches the principles of restorative justice. It is taught in prisons in groups of up to 20 learners, over a 6-week period. Learners on the programme explore the effects of crime on victims, offenders, and the wider community, and discuss what it would mean to take responsibility for their personal actions. For most learners on Sycamore Tree the most powerful element of the programme is when a victim of crime comes in to talk through how crime has impacted their lives. Learners have an opportunity in the final session to express their remorse — some write letters, poems or create works of art or craft. Members of the community are invited to support and bear witness to these symbolic acts of restitution. It made me think about who I have affected and how they feel. I will leave here feeling I can change. ST is an accredited programme and is proven to change attitudes that contribute to reoffending. The supportive group-based learning environment, connection with the community and highly economic structure, are just a few reasons why ST holds highly favourable endorsements from participants, staff and other stakeholders.
Using a curriculum guide prepared by PFI, a facilitator leads the participants in conversations about subjects related to crime and justice. The programme can have profound effects on the victims and offenders. Many victims have reported receiving a measure of healing. Offenders confront, many times for the first time, the harm their actions have had on other people. They talk about the effects of crime, the harms it causes, and how to make things right.