What motivates a crime victim to walk into a maximum security prison to confront serious offenders about the consequences of crime?
It’s easy to feel helpless about the rate of crime in our society but a growing number of people are facing this fear and participating in the justice system to make it more effective for our communities. They have a holistic view of crime that looks at the total impact of harm – starting with the victim – and takes practical steps to deal with it.
In the western legal system, crime victims are ignored and marginalised in the courts, so we have missed out on their vital input. As we have found out in the Sycamore Tree Project, their contribution is essential in getting through to hardened criminals.
Ross Thompson is one crime survivor who refused to be sidelined. Since the brutal murder of his son Michael, in Queensland’s worst crime nine years ago, he has worked tirelessly to put victim’s issues on the agenda.
His motivation for joining the Sycamore Tree Project very simple.
“If we just get through to just one inmate not to reoffend, we’ve done our job. That’s what it’s all about.”
Ross has seen the human damage that one crime can do. He heads up Queensland Homicide Victims Support Group which reaches out to families who have been devastated by serious crimes.
As a facilitator in the program I have seen how hardened criminals fight back the tears when they hear Ross recount the devastation he experienced for years after his son was killed. It becomes a turning point for many in the room who have never thought about the long term consequences of their actions.
“When I tell my story, I can see it getting through,” Ross says.
“Up until that point, they really don’t understand what we have been through. They don’t see the trauma they leave behind and the repercussions.
“These are tough guys, but when we talk to them, you can see the change. You can see it in their eyes.”
“My goal is to save just one person. That will make my life complete. And if I can do that then I hope Michael would say to me ‘hey dad – I’m proud of you’.”
PHOTO CREDIT: EMILY HOWARD