Sycamore Tree Project, Italy worked to their programme in Italian prisons but faced a few obstacles. In the end, the prison administration allowed them to start but with the proviso that the first group consist of prisoners who were mafia members convicted of committing murder and survivors of victims of such mafia activity.
One signpost along that journey was the prisoners’ growing awareness of the impact of their crimes. As anyone working with restorative processes knows, offenders have many tools for denying the harm that they have caused. In the case of the prisoner participants in PF Italy’s first STP, their role in the mafia provided a perfect escape route from responsibility. As they explained in the course, they saw their victims as simple targets. They were soldiers fighting against other soldiers. The murder was either an act of retaliation or education for someone who had acted against their organizations. In fact, the prisoners – some of whom had committed as many as 35 murders – had even blocked the faces of their victims. They were just targets. In response, the victim participants challenged the prisoners’ comments and ways of thinking. They did this through their own stories and reminding the prisoners of why the assassinations were committed in the first place. The purpose was to inflict pain. The general practice is to deal with enemies by killing their sons in order to cause the greatest amount of suffering possible. In fact, they often killed a son just after his 18th birthday so that the father would have many years of guilt and pain to live with. READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE ON RJ ONLINE