Zacchaeus was changed by his encounter with Jesus, change is also behind the Sycamore Tree course...

While in HMP Hindley in WIgan recently, Nick was tasked with the job of helping several prisoners to go through the sign-up forms for the Sycamore Tree Course.

Nick explains;

This is a course made available in all three of the prisons in which I minister, and indeed in most (if not all) prisons throughout the U.K. It is generally facilitated by the Offender Management Unit or O.M.U.

Sycamore Tree is a volunteer-led victim awareness programme that teaches the principles of restorative justice. It is taught in prisons in groups of up to 20 learners, over a 6-week period. Those on the programme explore the effects of crime on victims, offenders, and the wider community, and discuss what it would mean to take responsibility for their personal actions. Sometimes a victim of crime will come into the prison to talk through how crime has impacted their lives. Also, those on the course have an opportunity in the final session to express their remorse.

Although it is not overtly Christian in content, Sycamore Tree is loosely based upon the encounter of Zacchaeus with the Lord Jesus in Luke chapter 9. It is an accredited programme which is proven to change attitudes that contribute to reoffending, and chaplains encourage offenders to participate in it. In HMP Buckley Hall, the Sycamore Tree course runs alongside courses that the chaplaincy itself delivers, i.e. Living with Loss, Christianity Explored and Alpha.

Parole boards sometimes look more favourably upon offenders who have completed the Sycamore Tree Course (along with other courses) and this can have a positive influence on the outcome of any future parole hearings. Members of the board look for indications that the prisoner is truly remorseful and making genuine efforts to turn their lives around. Of course, my ultimate goal is to see prisoners coming to a saving knowledge of Christ, after all, no one else can truly turn a life around like the Lord Jesus.

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Clock icon 14 Feb, 2023

Written by:

Nick Stirling

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