Outlook Issue 26 Winter 2018
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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Restorative Justice
How can we lock up fewer prisoners and reduce reoffending? One programme aimed to address these complex issues is Sycamore Tree. A number of people from local churches are working on a possible solution. Four times a year they go to Hollesley Bay for six weeks on a Wednesday afternoon to run a course on restorative justice called Sycamore Tree, an initiative of the charity Prison Fellowship. The Sycamore Tree Course aims to help the men explore the effects of crime on victims, including the community, and on the offenders themselves and their families and friends. They discuss what it would mean to take responsibility for their personal actions and how they can put their crimes behind them and move on to a different lifestyle. The course is part direct teaching, part group discussion and working together to answer key questions.. The sessions work through topics such as restorative justice, the ripple effect of crime, showing remorse, reconciliation and restitution, explaining them in simple terms using visual effects including videos when possible. The course is accredited and written assignments have to be done each week between sessions and marked in the final assessment. This can be a struggle for some participants but they are offered help from the two peer mentors, offenders who have previously completed the course and assist in the running of it. Expressing remorse Two sessions are particularly powerful. In the third week, a victim of crime comes in to talk through how crime has impacted their life. In the final session offenders have an opportunity to express their remorse – some write letters, others produce 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. A good number of people say that for them Sycamore Tree has been life changing. And there is some evidence that the reoffending numbers are lower than average for the men who have completed the course. This of course is what we are working towards. For more information look at the website: www.prisonfellowship.org.uk. If you would like to be involved or discuss this work further, you are most welcome to contact me at Hollesley Bay: Alison Wintgens 01394 633480 Alison.Wintgens@hmps.gsi.gov.uk. Alison Wintgens