The first week, there was a lot of defensive behavior from the women. Many of the women were reluctant to share information.

There was a woman with a confident attitude and a sturdy walk. She seemed really approachable. She interacted well with the group, listened attentively to the teaching about how to restore relationships, and engaged well with group activities.

Towards the end of the course, a victim of crime spoke about how the murder of a family member had affected them.

As the six weeks of the course passed by the women began to see that their own crimes had affected others in a damaging way. It slowly became apparent to the women that restoring trust has to occur through both words and actions.

On session six the approachable woman came in with a fabric rose she had crafted out of materials in a class. She revealed that it was part of her symbolic act of restitution. This is an act where the prisoners who have attended the course express to visitors, family and other prisoners their determination to change. They perform a restorative act of restitution by way of charting their progress on the journey towards rehabilitation.

The prisoner said:
“I made a rose.
The rose represents a family unit.

One leaf had fallen when he passed away so I attached a leaf to say sorry and symbolise me restoring her life through my apology.

I gave away the rose to the victim of crime {who came to the Sycamore Tree course.}”

The victim of crime was genuinely touched by the woman’s words, and the rose she gave. Tears were shed and feelings of sorrow were shared. Witnessing this moment was a rare privilege to see a clear turning point in the life of a prisoner, wanting to change, and starting to make small steps towards some kind of restoration, if only within herself.

The courage it took this woman to make this act was astounding. Although it seems as if a fabric rose cannot do much, it seemed to me, as an observer, that the decision she made in that moment could mean she won’t be committing the same crime again.

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