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Collapsing barriers between victims and offenders

Sep 13, 2013


In mid-July, Prison Fellowship Italy completed the first Sycamore Tree Project® (STP) course in Modena Prison. Nine prisoners and five crime survivors came together to share their stories and develop a mutual respect for each other.

In a press conference held at the end of the course, the prison director, Rosa Alba Casella, described her initial scepticism about allowing the programme in the facility. However, the experiences of the nine participating prisoners and the intense interest from the rest of the inmate population convinced her of the usefulness of STP. 

One victim, Luigi, explained how he barely considered the prisoners as human beings in the opening of the course. Yet, as he came to understand the prisoners’ backgrounds and their families, he changed his thinking. The separation between victim and offender collapsed. The openness and sincerity of his fellow participants – both victim and offender – helped Luigi explore the wounds that he continued to carry from the crime, wounds that had “shattered” his family. In doing so, he received the gift of understanding that helped him move toward forgiveness.

The STP experience in Modena Prison can be summed up in the words of 56-year-old Roberto. He has spent more than 20 years in and out of prisons throughout Italy. In that time, he has been known as a rebel and participant in many in prison fights. Unable to attend the press conference, Roberto sent a letter to be read by a fellow participant.

“Why didn’t someone tell me these things when I was 20? I didn’t know what I was doing, but from the stories I heard I felt pain unlike any I could imagine. I am very angry with myself. I do not want to be that man. I want to make myself someone my children and grandchildren can be proud of.”

An Italian language video of the press conference is available on YouTube

See the original article.

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