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Transforming Attitudes Towards Offending

The Sycamore Tree Project® is an in-prison programme bringing unrelated victims and offenders together for conversations about crime. The programme allows them to reflect together on the consequences of crime and the steps needed to address the harm that has resulted.

Prison Fellowship England and Wales has run the programme since 1998, and now offers it in 50 penal institutions. Earlier this year the Research Centre for Community Justice at Sheffiled Hallam University and REClaim North West completed an evaluation of the programme’s effect on offender attitudes.

The evaluation was based on the CRIME-PICS II questionnaire, which measures an individual’s attitudes toward offending, based on five factors:

  • General Attitude: measures the offender’s general attitude towards offending
  • Anticipation of future offending: measures the offender’s anticipation of re-offending
  • Victim Empathy: measures an offender’s attitude towards his/her victims, in particular whether or not they believe they have caused harm
  • Evaluation of crime as worthwhile: Measures the offender’s assessment of crime being worthwhile
  • Problem Inventory: measures the offender’s perceptions of their current problems.

From April 2002 to December 2004, 2,188 prisoners participating in the Sycamore Tree Project® completed the CRIME PICS II questionnaires before and after the programme. The data were then analyzed by researchers. They found that:

  • There was a statistically significant improvement on all five CRIME-PICS II scales.  This indicates that the Sycamore Tree programme had the desired impact on the participants and changed the attitudes that are known to be conducive to offending behaviour. 
  • It is expected that increasing an offender’s awareness of the impact of their crime on victims will have a beneficial effect on future behaviour and reduce the likelihood of re-offending.

For more information on the study, contact Prison Fellowship England and Wales at enquiries@prisonfellowship.org.uk or www.prisonfellowship.org.uk

For more information on the Sycamore Tree Project, visit http://www.pficjr.org/programs/stp/

September 2005

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