Sycamore Tree Project® report from Australia
From the article by Martin Howard: Once again the Sycamore Tree Project® was able to achieve remarkable outcomes in the lives of inmates and crime victims during the latest program run in late 2011.
A number of VIPs joined us at the graduation session to hear the testimonies of participants. Among them were: Justice Debra Mullins, Mr Wayne Wendt MP – Member for Ipswich West, (Representing Mr Neil Roberts, the Minister for Police, Corrective Services and Emergency Services), Mrs Desley Scott MP – Member for Woodridge, David Way – Prison Fellowship Qld State Executive Director, David Cormack – Prison Fellowship Qld Chairman (Barrister), Scott McNairn (Director of Borallon Correctional Centre) yOni Yinarr Kriewald (Borallon Head of Restorative Justice, Culture & Reintegration) and Jessica Howard (my wife!).
The consistent message from inmates was “I didn’t realise the harm my crimes have caused”. This is very significant finding for our chaplains and all of us involved in working with inmates. Basic victim awareness is simply not happening in the courts and correctional system.
During the sessions we were able to bring perpetrators of violent crimes together with victims of similar crimes. There were no fights though, because I shifted everyone’s attention to the redemptive stories of Zaccheus and the Prodigal Son. As we examined the process of forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation in those stories, we created a transformative environment where people could choose to embrace those values. This begins a journey that continues between sessions and beyond the seven weeks of the program.
I am particularly grateful for the support and encouragement we received from the management at the centre and the chaplaincy team. Not only did they give us practical assistance, but they have created an ethos in the Centre that compliments the restorative justice values of the program.
Thanks to Chaplain John Lawson and admin assistant Suzi Schuhmacher for their assistance to me. Also, thanks to the STP prayer team, for your spiritual intercession for STP.
We hope to run more STP programs this year.
Several people underwent intensive facilitator training in November, with an inspiring trainer from New Zealand,
Chris Chevalier. He was able to enlarge our vision of what we can do with this program. These new ‘recruits’ will give us the capacity to run many more programs in the coming years.
I will plant cedar, acacia, myrtle, and wild olive trees in the desert. I will place cedar, fir, and cypress trees together in the wilderness. (Isaiah 41:19)
Martin Howard, STP Coordinator
This article originally appeared in Unchained, Summer 2012, the Newsletter of Prison Fellowship Australia (Queensland).