Welby applauds mainstreaming of restorative justice

01 May 2015


Behind bars: HMP Brixton 

Behind bars: HMP Brixton 

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has praised a restorative-justice project that has just had its government funding cut.

Archbishop Welby was speaking during a visit to HMP Brixton, in south London, on Friday, to see the work of Prison Fellowship volunteers, and the group's victim-awareness scheme Sycamore Tree.

During the visit, several offenders told him that the course, in which criminals meet their victims face to face to seek reconciliation, has changed them. Sycamore Tree, launched in 1998, now operates in 40 prisons, but the Ministry of Justice has just announced that there are no plans to renew its three-year contract, which ended in March.

Archbishop Welby said that governments of all hues "always have to struggle with how they deal with the issues of prison. . . No government has ever cracked it. . . They want lower reoffending rates, they want to reduce pressure on budgets, and they want lots of other things. I also have no doubt that the research currently being conducted by the University of Cambridge will highlight Sycamore Tree's extraordinarily effective outcomes in resolving conflict, and bringing about restorative transformations and reconciliation."

The Archbishop went on: "It is encouraging that, slowly, people outside prison - and most of those involved in the prison service know this very well - are beginning to see the mainstreaming of restorative justice as a legitimate, effective, and cost-effective means of rehabilitation. Change happens when we treat people as people with whom we build relationships. Investing time, energy, and resources in the individual offender can lead to the kinds of transformation and reconciliation that other rehabilitation programmes could never achieve."

The chairman of the fellowship's trustees, Howard Dodd, said: "Our fundamental belief is that no one is beyond help - that everyone can change, and everyone needs support to make that change."

England and Wales imprison proportionately more of their populations - about 147 people per 100,000 - than any other West European nation.

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