Sycamore Tree is a volunteer-led victim awareness programme that teaches the principles of restorative justice. It is taught in prisons in groups of up to 20 learners, over a 6-week period. Learners on the programme explore the effects of crime on victims, offenders, and the wider community, and discuss what it would mean to take responsibility for their personal actions.
For most learners on Sycamore Tree the most powerful element of the programme is when a victim of crime comes in to talk through how crime has impacted their lives. Learners have an opportunity in the final session to express their remorse – some write letters, 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.
“It made me realise you can change and there are people out there to help you. It made me think about who I have affected and how they feel. I will leave here feeling I can change.”
– Sycamore Tree learner
ST is an accredited programme and is proven to change attitudes that contribute to reoffending. The content of the programme is consistent with the pathways determined by the Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation service (HMPPS) to reduce reoffending. The supportive group-based learning environment, connection with the community and highly economic structure, are just a few reasons why ST holds highly favourable endorsements from participants, staff and other stakeholders.
Between April 2019 to March 2020, we ran 137 Sycamore Tree courses in 48 prisons across England and Wales, allowing 2,438 learners to explore the impact of their crime.