Understanding the ripple effect of social damage

Understanding the ripple effect of social damage

How can we understand the big picture of crime when our system is so tightly focussed on the perpetrator? It starts by taking a holistic view.

We need to see the long term effects of crime and the many people it impacts. Crime isn’t just a passing event. It has many victims, and it damages lives and relationships. Our courts are designed to deal with the event and the perpetrator, but they marginalise the victims in the process.

During session two of the Sycamore Tree Project, we take a small stone and drop it into dish of water. Everyone watches as the ripples continue – long after the first splash.

The group participants are given a diagram showing concentric circles. Beginning in the middle, they write down all the names of people who were harmed in their crime.

For most prisoners, this is the first time they have seriously considered the long term harm of their crime.

You may not realise it but criminals are processed in our justice system without ever being made to consider the harm to their victims?

The Sycamore Tree Project fills this gap by bringing prisoners face to face with real crime victims who tell their stories of trauma, grief and pain. In a non-judgemental environment, perpetrators can learn that their own victims have similar scars. It is confronting, but it is an essential step in the journey towards personal transformation that can lead them out of a life of crime.

It also brings empowerment to the victim participants who can see the immediate effect of their presence having an impact on the people who most need it.


Martin lives in Brisbane Australia and loves meeting and writing about the amazing people who are changing our justice system. He is a prison facilitator for the Sycamore Tree Project in Queensland, Australia.