Introduction

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Welcome to Sycamore Tree

The Sycamore Tree Project is an accredited course delivered in prisons. It is delivered by trained volunteers, which helps create a distinct relationship with participants as they are perceived as separate from the prison regime. The course is made up of 6 sessions of two-and-a-half hours, each involving structured talking, sharing experiences and encouragement to reassess the past. A key point in the course is when participants meet face-to-face with a victim of crime and are encouraged to relate the issues raised by victims to their own offending experiences. Offenders are also asked to complete a workbook throughout the course—both in and outside session time—and this is assessed upon completion and offers an opportunity to gain a qualification accredited by Gateway Qualifications.

The course draws on restorative justice theory, inviting offenders to consider the impact of crime and to meet with victims—enabling them to take responsibility for their actions and develop a greater capacity for empathy. The course culminates in a voluntary act of restitution in front of members of the community, victims, prison staff and fellow offenders. The course is voluntary so potential participants will have an existing desire to change, however nascent. They are assessed for suitability at the outset and given clear information about the course and what will happen. The programme is suitable for offenders from a range of backgrounds and needs, including those with learning disabilities.