Carlos’s guilt weighed on him. The shame he felt over his crime held him back. In prison, he was invited to participate in Prison Fellowship Chile’s Sycamore Tree Program®, which helps offenders understand the harm caused by crime and pave a way to healing and redemption. But Carlos believed he was irreparably broken and was afraid to join the program.
Many prisoners believe they are beyond redemption. And many justice systems perpetuate this belief by punishing prisoners for their wrongdoings, rather than creating rehabilitative environments where prisoners can learn personal responsibility for their behavior. Prison Fellowship International believes no one is beyond redemption and is creating programs that prove it.
Current data reports 10.9 million prisoners worldwide. And our network has access to 1.58 million prisoners. That’s 14.5% of the prison population. This is significant because experts have discovered it only takes 20% of a population to embrace an idea for widespread change to take place. In other words, if 20% of prisoners respond to the gospel, they have the power to change an entire prison system—for better. Which is exactly what was happening inside Carlos’s prison through the Sycamore Tree Project.
“As time passed, I saw how my peers who participated in the course were changing. They began to live more joyfully and that caught my attention,” says Carlos. One day, Carlos asked a fellow inmate what they talked about in class. The answer surprised him.
“What happens in class stays in class,” the inmate said.
“That was exactly what I needed to hear,” says Carlos. “I needed to know that no one else—outside those in the course—would know about my problems. . . . I could trust [them] when talking about my crime.”
Carlos decided to join the eight-week course where he learned about personal responsibility for his crime, how to make amends with those he hurt, and how to forgive himself and heal. Carlos began to transform from the inside out.
“The Sycamore Tree Project changed my life and spirit!” says Carlos. “This course has helped heal my heart by removing a great weight that I carried inside. That’s the most beautiful thing of all.”
Change doesn’t stop in prisons. Prisoners can be a powerful force for good. Today, nearly 19,000 prisoners and victims are repairing the harm caused by crime through the Sycamore Tree Project. As their hearts are transformed through Jesus’s love, they rebuild connections with their families, communities, and God. They spread radical love, acceptance, and transformation throughout some of the darkest, most broken corners of the world, healing some of the most wounded and broken people.
People just like Carlos.