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Victim Awareness and Empathy Programmes

Articles concerning the use of victim panels, meetings with surrogate victims and victim awareness classes to lead prisoners to consider the effects of their behaviour on their victims.

What kind of prison might the inmates design?
from the article by Lee Romney in the LA Times: ....The 18 men who enrolled in the four-day workshop this summer were contemplating restorative justice through a novel lens: design. As consensus builds that traditional criminal justice models are failing to prevent recidivism, [Deanna] VanBuren and fellow instructor Barb Toews, an academic, have joined a small chorus of designers, researchers and even judges and wardens calling for new spaces to match the tenets of restorative justice. ...."What would a room look like," she then asked, "where you could face anything you've done and be accountable for it?"
Video: Inside the Sycamore Tree Project
from Sycamore Voices: In June 2014, six crime survivors talked exclusively about their experiences inside the breakthrough restorative justice program called The Sycamore Tree Project. We share this short video in the hopes that other victims of crime can experience the real life breakthrough that the program offers.
I wanted revenge but found compassion
from the article on Sycamore Voices: When I first heard of restorative practice I thought it was a load of rubbish. I thought that all the offender had to do was say sorry and that was it. So how would you know if they were genuine or not? I have come to realise that it is way more than that. To take part in a restorative practice session takes strength and courage from both sides and is way more than a simple “I’m sorry.” It is restorative on both sides!
Learning respect for a victim’s pain – a powerful speech to prisoners and criminal justice officials
from the article on Sycamore Voices: When I first began the program I was recovering from a broken right wrist, it was a bad break and extremely painful. In greeting the residents I had to offer my right wrist – these guys have strong handshakes and a couple of times I actually winced in pain. In order for me to be acquainted with the participants I had to offer something of myself, which hurt. In turn the guys learnt to not shake my hand hard and they developed a respect for my pain. Eight weeks on I can offer my hand without the fear of pain, as there has been a healing process.
The mother finding solace after her son's murder - by visiting prisons to talk to killers
from the article in the MailOnline: There it was, tucked between the magazines on her coffee table: proof that her beloved son was going to get married. When Lyn Connolly found the engagement ring catalogue, she instantly knew what it meant. That evening, ecstatic, she teasingly challenged 28-year-old Paul about it. Paul, who had been dating teacher Izzy Harris for two years, coyly admitted their happy secret: he had asked her to marry him. They had designed a diamond ring together, which they had been waiting for the jeweller to finish before announcing the news. But just weeks after her happy discovery in August 2002, Lyn's joy was cut short. Paul was stabbed to death on a street near their Liverpool home by two men high on drugs in a motiveless and unprovoked attack. Lyn suddenly found herself planning a funeral instead of a wedding. Hers is a story that would touch the hardest of hearts. 'There is the story of what happened to Paul and the story of how we got through it,' she says. 'I rarely manage to get to the end without crying.'
Tending deep wounds
In October, Prison Fellowship South Africa held its last scheduled Sycamore Tree Project® (STP) course for 2013 in Pretoria Women’s Correctional Centre. The 18 prisoners and six victims addressed many issues related to crime and the harm that it causes. For one, the programme offered an opportunity to address the deep wounds of racism and violence from her country’s past.
From death row to restorative justice
from the article by Marina Cantacuzino: Restorative justice is a system that fundamentally views crime as injury rather than wrong-doing, and justice as healing rather than punishment. Whilst visiting New York, Minneapolis, Hawaii and Texas (thanks to receiving a Winston Churchill travelling fellowship) I've uncovered some remarkable US-based programs that bear this out. But as founding director of The Forgiveness Project, a UK-based charity that delivers a restorative justice programme in prisons, I'm also surprised by how often the death penalty is central to the conversation.
Collapsing barriers between victims and offenders
From 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.
Seeing the Other Side
From the article on Once so full of fear that she could not sleep or speak, Melissa now stood before a group of prisoners to read aloud a letter she wrote to the man whose crime tormented her for years. "What you did to me 14 years ago changed my life forever,” she read from her letter. She was recalling the day when a man held a gun to her head during a robbery at the bank where she worked in Queensland, Australia. While the robbery lasted only a short time, the ramifications from it continue to affect Melissa today. “I lost years of my life and years from my children’s life,” she lamented. “I prayed the world would stop. The world kept spinning, and while other lives thrived, mine stood still.”
Empowered Victims & Moral Perpetrators: A Needs-Based Model of Reconciliation
from the entry by Christine Webb on At a recent workshop at Leiden University on Obstacles and Catalysts for Peaceful Behavior, Nurit Shnabel presented exciting research distinguishing the needs of victims and perpetrators in interpersonal and intergroup conflicts. According to Shnabel and colleagues’ Needs-Based Model of Reconciliation, victims of conflict experience a psychological loss of status and honor, thus undermining their identities as powerful actors. Perpetrators, on the other hand, experience a psychological loss of social acceptance, thus threatening their identities as moral actors. Accordingly, victims and perpetrators are differentially motivated to restore these respective identities, and interactions that do so will increase their willingness to reconcile....
Why go there?
from the entry by Peg Wallace for Wisconsin Restorative Justice Coalition: That’s the question that arises most often when I mention my visits with inmates in Wisconsin’s prison system. Why go there? Why would I, who lost a beloved family member to violent crime, want to “go there”—emotionally, let alone physically? Why do I spend three consecutive days of my discretionary time locked in intense conversation with convicted felons, many of whom have committed violent crimes? Why would anyone want to do that? My own journey to prison began over 25 years ago, when my 88-year-old grandmother and her two elderly friends were kidnapped after attending a charity event in my home town. Their kidnapper drove them to an isolated, wooded location and brutally kick-boxed them to death. Within days, he was captured, and within months, he was tried and convicted.
Evaluation of The Forgiveness Project within prisons
from the article by Joanna R. Adler and Mansoor Mir: The Forgiveness Project (TFP) is a UK based charity that uses real stories to explore how ideas around forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution can have a positive impact on people’s lives. One aspect of the charity’s work is a programme run within prisons, targeted at the early stages of a sentence.
Unite offering prisoner mediation service at Kirklevington Grange Prison
from the article by Sandy McKenzie in the Evening Gazette: ....Mr James said the focus was always on the long-term goal of reducing reoffending. “We’re also providing a victim-offender mediation service for those Kirklevington prisoners who agree to talk to their victims and where the victim agrees to meet the perpetrator. “This is one way a prisoner can show they have taken responsibility for their actions. They may want to offer an explanation to the victim. They may want to say sorry and agree a way to make amends.”
Restorative justice behind bars
from the article by Stacy Howard on the Criminal Justice section of Seattle University's website: This summer, Seattle University's Criminal Justice program took students out of the classroom and into prison cells. SU’s criminal justice chair and a sociology professor teamed up to create a new pilot course that provided a unique learning experience for students.
Restorative justice: Using psychology to change the way offenders think
from the article on the website of the British Psychological Society: A five-day programme for convicted offenders has been shown to be effective in increasing their levels of concern for their victims and motivation to change. The Supporting Offenders through Restoration Inside (SORI) programme, which has been piloted in seven prisons across the UK, is the subject of a study published in the journal Criminological and Legal Psychology today.
The three different levels of Restorative Justice
From the article by the Sentinel: Level One is for minor offences or non-criminal incidents like anti-social behaviour, which can be dealt with immediately by the officer at the scene. All Staffordshire officers are being trained in this area.
Who are you? Karen Lang
from Alicia Hanson's article on "Imagine you are shopping at Garden City - you are trying to find an appropriate jumper for your daughter. It has to have a high neck. Something that will compliment her blonde hair and fair skin. You know she would want to look her best. Finally you find a soft mauve high neck jumper, you know it will look beautiful on her. You clutch your purchase and contain yourself till you reach your car - where you break into sobs. The jumper is for your daughter to wear in the casket - there will be a viewing and the high neck is to cover her wounds. You will never shop at Garden City again without thinking of her. Imagine." - Karen Lang
Chickens and chats form basis of new prison life
from the entry on This is Corwall: ...."It may sound gimmicky, because this is supposed to be a prison and a place of punishment, but the people I'm charged with looking after are some of the most troubled and troublesome members of society," he said. "Their individual backgrounds are horrendous in terms of not having a father figure, and a lack of education and the opportunities that you and I experienced." Through treating prisoners with "decency" and giving back a sense of respect, staff are already seeing a drop in incidents of bullying and drug abuse. A large number of prisoners have volunteered to sign up to a scheme to donate a small weekly sum to the Victim Support Service.
Meeting the murderer: Profile of victim-offender dialogue facilitator
from the entry on Grits for Breakfast: See an interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor about a boat builder from Maine who runs a non-profit facilitating victim-offender dialogue (VOD) between violent criminals and their victims or their families, which is an idea derived from "restorative justice" models.
5 amazing things I've heard during the Sycamore Tree Project(R)
by Martin Howard: At first, it sounds like a bizarre social experiment - natural enemies placed together inside a prison to see if they can get along. Men convicted of violent crimes alongside victims of violent crime. Even though the concept has been proven in over 25 countries, people still find it hard to comprehend the Sycamore Tree Project (STP). And it took a long time to convince the prison authorities in Queensland to allow it.

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