By Aisha Tamba
A graduation ceremony was organised Saturday for 26 inmates of the state central Mile II, after successfully completing a prisons rehabilitation course under a new program.
The Sycamore Tree Project is a victim offender mediation program, and it seeks to restore the dignity of the offender, repair harm or pain inflicted on the victim through a restorative approach, and rebuild communities by restoring and reconciling relationships.
The initiative was supported by The Gambia Prisons Services and the Prison Fellowship-The Gambia, a Christian non-profit ministry affiliated to Prison Fellowship International, PFI – the world’s largest volunteer organisation working in the criminal justice arena in 128 countries.
Speaking at the event held at prisons’ headquarters, prisons director Ansumana Manneh said the 26 have undergone 8 sessions of unfeigned conversations that earned them a “deep understanding of the ripple effects of crime, how to take responsibility of their actions, how to make amends for their wrongs, and how to forgive even if they have been victimised.”
Rehab doctor, Abraham Abbew told the convicts that their past crimes does not mean they are not good citizens.
“Every human being is a sinner,” he reminded them. “But good sinners are those who repent.”
He referred them to a common saying that ‘the downfall of a man, is not the end of his life.
Speaking on behalf of the inmates, Bubaccarr Barry said the project has helped shape their philosophy of the world, as it was all about peace, tranquility and how to rebuild and redefine oneself.
“We learned restorative justice – a system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.”
They expressed their readiness to stay away from trouble, and other “negative behaviours” which will retard their progress.
The permanent secretary at the Ministry of the Interior Mr Assan Tangara, said the training will help reduce crime rate in the country.
The deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Amadou Sanneh, said being imprisoned does not mean the end of one’s life. He urged the authorities to organise more of these trainings.