Pioneering prison scheme reaps rewards
The pioneering restorative justice programme is already beginning to reap rewards in Bermuda’s prisons, according to psychologist Davina Aidoo.
The Sycamore Tree initiative, in which inmates come face to face with a victim of crime, was piloted at Westgate Correction Facility last September. Six inmates successfully took part in the scheme, which is designed to help victims deal with their ordeal and offenders understand the harm they have caused. Next week, five more inmates from The Farm will embark on the same initiative.
The final stage of the programme will see prisoners and the victims of the crimes they have perpetrated introduced to each other during Restorative Justice Conferencing.
“The first programme went very well, to the point that certain victims wanted to maintain contact with the inmates they were in the programme with,” said Ms Aidoo.
“The programmes that are on offer at Westgate and the other correctional facilities have helped inmates to develop a sense of immense pride in what they do.
“That is different from where I have worked before and it is encouraging.
“It seems to me that inmates really want the opportunity to give back.”
Prison bosses hope that the first Restorative Justice Conferencing sessions will begin later this year.
Ms Aidoo added: “Inmates participate in either the victim empathy programme or the Sycamore Tree programme before they might meet with their direct victim, if the person or persons offended against are willing.
“The overall scheme is designed to help repair the harm caused by crime to victims, families and the community.
“The programmes are designed to help increase victim empathy and understanding of the impact of offending, for those who have committed crimes and those who have been affected by it.
“Conferencing is about giving victims the opportunity to meet the person who offended against them, as many victims can be left with a lot of unanswered questions, even after a court case and a conviction.
“It also gives the inmates an opportunity to make amends, as far as is possible, for the harm caused by their actions.”
The new restorative justice programmes will all be assessed and evaluated to ensure that they meet the aims of both prisoners and victims taking part in them.
Commissioner of Corrections, Colonel Edward Lamb, told The Royal Gazette: “We have done a lot of ground work on this initiative.
“There were a lot of legal challenges to get it off the ground and a great deal of research needed to be done.
“We have been talking about doing something like this for some time, and it is one more step towards the rehabilitation of the inmates.”