Sycamore Tree Project: Academic research overview

The Effectiveness of the Sycamore Tree Project: A Review of the Research

The Sycamore Tree Project is a restorative justice program that was developed by the Prison Fellowship International and has been implemented in several countries around the world. It is a 6-8 week program that brings together prisoners, crime victims and members of the community in facilitated discussions and activities designed to promote understanding, forgiveness, and reconciliation. The program is based on the idea that crime is not just an individual problem, but a social one that affects everyone in a community.

Research on the Sycamore Tree Project has generally found that it is effective in reducing recidivism and improving the attitudes and behaviour of participants. It has also been shown to contribute to a sense of reconciliation and healing, and to have a positive impact on the prison environment. Some studies have also found that the Sycamore Tree Project is cost-effective and can provide good value for money.

Here are some key findings from the research on the Sycamore Tree Project:

  • An evaluation of the Sycamore Tree Programme: based on an analysis of Crime Pics II Data 
    UK Ministry of Justice (2010): This evaluation found that the Sycamore Tree Project was effective in reducing reoffending among participants, with participants in the program having a significantly lower rate of reoffending than a comparison group. The report also found that the Sycamore Tree Project had a positive impact on the attitudes and behaviour of participants, and that it contributed to a sense of reconciliation and healing within the prison community.
  • Inside out: how does an in-prison victim awareness programme affect recidivism? 
    Margaret Wilson and Lucy Cavendish. RJ principles can operate after conviction within existing prison regimes and are able, in this respect, to answer critics’ fears that RJ is not, fair, proportional, or consistent. More importantly, perhaps, the STP offers restorative opportunities for people who have progressed so far into the criminal justice system that they are usually beyond most RJ schemes
    Download PDF
  • A Consideration of the Sycamore Tree Programme and Survey Results from the Perspective of a Restorative Justice Practitioner
    Margaret Marshall May 2005 For both victims and inmates, involvement in the STP may be an excellent preparation for having a restorative justice conference with their own specific victims/offenders. All things considered, STP can be considered as a “mostly” restorative process, using the Zehr continuum. It is an approach which gets as close as it can to being fully restorative, without offenders meeting their actual victims.
    Download PDF
  • Sycamore Tree Restorative Justice Programme, Solomon Islands
    M Brigg, W Chadwick, C Griggers, 2015. The Sycamore Tree programme has helped to usher in what they consider a “different way of thinking about crime” – one that gives the victim a central role, in contrast with the punitive system that focuses on the offender’s. What the Sycamore Tree programme has arguably proven is that in Solomon Islands, restorative justice principles of rebuilding relationships and undertaking a joint process of healing can have more far-reaching effects towards achieving reconciliation – including national reconciliation
  • South African female offenders’ experiences of the Sycamore Tree Project with strength-based activities
    ME Fourie, V Koen. The findings show that the participants experienced the STP with strength-based activities as positive, without exception. The results strongly suggest that the STP and strength-based activities complement each other. While the STP sessions include learning processes, the strength-based activities consist of life skills (tools) that can be used in everyday life.

Overall, the research on the Sycamore Tree Project suggests that it is an effective program that can have a positive impact on the attitudes and behaviour of prisoners, as well as on the prison environment more broadly.


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. Contact:

Related Posts

No related posts found.