Prisoners focus on victims to face up to crimes

| 05/04/2016 | 8 Comments
Cayman News Service

Inmates celebrate completion of The Sycamore Tree Project, with Prison Chaplain Cathy Gomez (front centre) and Prison Director Neil Lavis (back, right)

(CNS): A new initiative towards the rehabilitation of inmates at HMP Northward encourages them to face up to their crimes by interacting with their victims. Based on The Sycamore Tree project in the UK run by Prison Fellowship, a faith-based organisation, the programme within HM Cayman Islands Prison Service is conducted by Prison Chaplain Cathy Gomez, assisted by prison staff, but is open to any prisoner, regardless of faith, and is not limited by the type of offense, a spokesperson for the prison told CNS.

The Sycamore Tree Project in Cayman is “a programme that unites offenders with victims of crime to open dialogue, promote understanding, forgiveness and restoration”, according to a release from the prison.

“In this first execution of the programme at HMCIPS, victims were not engaged directly but by way of letter from the prisoner,” the spokesperson told CNS. “As you can appreciate, a community as small as Cayman poses unique challenges to having victims face to face with offenders. However, it is our plan to incorporate more and more victims willing to engage in the restorative process.”

The first cohort of ten inmates started the eight-week programme and nine completed it. The prison spokesperson said there were no mechanisms in place yet to establish over the long term as to whether the programme has an effect on recidivism but indicated that this was a possibility.

The Sycamore Tree Project was introduced by Prison Director Neil Lavis, “who had seen the powerful effects of the programme in his former posting in Wales”, the release said.

A ceremony to celebrate the nine inmates who completed the programme was held on Sunday, 3 April, with fellow inmates, staff and family members in attendance. Though two of them were absent as they had been released from prison, officials from the prison described it as “a great accomplishment. For some, it was the first time they had successfully completed anything.”

Speaking to a packed Chapel, Director Lavis applauded each participant on their success and for having the courage to face their past and do the hard work of acknowledging the impact of their actions on themselves and others.

“Several gave testimonies during the service, speaking of the benefits of attending the programme and encouraging other inmates to attend the next series planned for May 2016,” the release stated.

Prison Chaplain Cathy Gomez was described as “overjoyed by the work the inmates did and how much each one grew during the process”.

She reportedly highlighted that the programme “focused on the fact that everyone is an offender, having all done something to hurt another person. Conversely, she stated that we are all victims as well, having all been hurt by another. It is this common ground where healing and restoration can begin. Each participant was encouraged to not only seek to ask forgiveness, forgive others but also forgive themselves for past mistakes.”

She said, “The programme was a great success and I look forward to more and more of the inmates taking advantage of future offerings.”

The programme was conducted at HMP Northward on a weekly basis. Gomez was assisted by staff volunteers Officer Irvin Long and Supervisor Julia King.

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Category: Crime, Prison

Comments (8)

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  1. Perry says:

    There are so many new and good things happening in our civil service. Real change is happening before our eyes. We have strong leaders in our key agencies and they are making a difference. Thank you Mr Lavis for really trying to make a difference that’s all we can ask for

  2. Anonymous says:

    We must always remember there are two sides of stories. Yes those imates that is now behind bars can ask for forgiveness and can be forgiven they might be behind bars because they get the upper hand of the other perspn/party. Mr. 8:05pm u cannot point fingers at the imates if u was around when the incident happen or u know what was the cause of the incident or who started it u can talk if u do not know pls shut ur mouth.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So let me get this straight if a killer killed one of my family members he may want to meet me to say he is sorry???? REALLY?? You have got to be kidding. If anyone came into my house threatens myself children or family, he wants to meet us face to face and say he is sorry???? or better yet….he rapes me so it is ok for him to look me in my face and ask forgiveness?? I said it before and I will say it again RAPISTS DON”T CHANGE!!! I really don’t give a s..t if he needs forgiveness he did the crime he will do the time and no forgiveness from me

    • Anonymous says:

      No one is saying you have to forgive anybody. Are you a afraid, deep down, that you may even want to forgive them if they asked for it? This is an innovative program that focuses on changing the individual. Some won’t change, some will. It’s about whether this island actually believes all the things said at the pulpit each Sunday or whether it’s just a big show once a week to wear a new hat.

      • Anonymous says:

        HELL NO 8:15am, not today, not tomorrow, not ever!!!

      • Anonymous says:

        You’ve never been raped then or had a close family member brutally murdered and had to watch. If they want to come asking for forgiveness, then fine. We can replace me in the prison cell because I truly want my chance for revenge.

    • Anonymous says:

      To 7:42am, you sound like a complete idiot. Two sides to a story of a convicted rapist? Two sides to a story for a convicted murderer? Really??? They can ask for anything they want, but you are right about one thing its up to the person they did it to or their family for forgiveness, but don’t come with the two sides to a story. Can there really be two sides to a story of a convicted serial rapist? Don’t want to mention the name but we all know who he is. Was there two sides of a story on the two that killed/raped Ms scott, was there two sides to a story when he cut Ms chee chee throat and put her head in a toilet bowl, were there two sides to a story when Mccandy shot the shop owner in the back of the head. These are just a few named.

  4. I have been advocating this for quite a few years now. Why has the idea taken so long to be picked up by the authorities?! Before anything else, a convict must show remorse – not just be saying “sorry”, but by *showing* sorry. Never mind paying his debt to society, he also has to pay his debt to the victim. If he steals a cell-phone, his first act of genuine remorse has to be to give the man his phone back. If he can’t do that, he must work for the man until he has enough money to buy him a new one. Right? Sounds fair to me.

    After all, why on earth would any society let any man go free if he doesn’t feel remorse? That doesn’t make sense.

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