Over the next six weeks I will be spending half a day a week in High Down prison where a group of us will be running a Sycamore Tree course. This is a Restorative Justice course which helps prisoners understand the impact of their crime on victims, including those indirectly impacted, their families and the wider community.
The course is very challenging, particularly as it includes victims of crime coming to speak about their personal experience. I have supported two courses before and it was amazing to see the impact this had. On one course an older man talked about being mugged and earlier this year I heard the tragic story of a 16 year old lad who died after taking drugs - as told by his parents. The prisoners were angry at the pain caused and were able to relate this back to their own offences. The course ends with a 'symbolic act of restoration' where those on the course write letters to their victims or produce something creative to express their regret and their desire to change.
The course is accredited and the attendees produce written work which goes towards them receiving a Restorative Justice qualification. Donations will be used to provide materials for the course, the administration that goes into putting it on and getting the accreditation for individuals. Those running the course, like me, are volunteers.
This is a very worthwhile course. It has a positive impact on individuals and reduces the reoffending rate, so impacting wider society. Please donate what you can - and think of me in prison on a Thursday afternoon!
For more details about Restorative Justice see:
For details of the Sycamore Tree course see:
And to hear first hand from a lady whose son was murdered and who now goes into prisons talking about her experience listen to this from a 5 live programme. Her story starts at about 2:10 and is well worth listening to: