It started 5 years ago; Jane* woke up in the early hours with a sentence running through her mind, “pamper packs for women in prison”. It was unlike her as she doesn’t wake up early.
Jane didn’t know how she would be able to get gifts into the prison, but as she really didn’t feel like it was her idea at all, she trusted God to make it happen.
Jane had no connection to prison ministry and at first, didn’t know there was a women’s prison in Tasmania, but googled it to find out more.
Three years later, a friend from Queensland visited Burnie; they spoke about a Prison Fellowship volunteer Patricia, in Hobart. After making contact with Patricia, over the next few months Jane also made contact with Di, one of the chaplains in the Mary Hutchinson Women’s Prison. It was explained that gifts could not be taken into the prison. A better approach would be to provide the packs for women on the day of their release.
Jane wanted every woman, no matter how long she had spent in prison, to be able to take a gift box home. She took the idea to her connect group at church, a group of a dozen women, to ask them what they thought. Her connect group were quite excited and decided to help make it happen.
In 2016, they made up the first gift box. They prayed about what to put in it. It was to be a gift, not essential items, but luxury items the women wouldn’t receive from anyone else.. The boxes contained hand towels, body lotions, scarf, sweets, notebook and a nice pen.
In March 2016, Patricia delivered the first box to a woman who had become a Christian in prison.
Jane’s connect group, together with Prison Fellowship, have now provided well over 100 “pamper packs” since May 2017. The connect group also receives prayer requests from Prison Fellowship Tasmania and pray for the women inside, as well as for Di and Patricia.
In February this year, the women held a fundraiser and invited Patricia and Di to share their stories about women’s ministry in the prison and what it’s like for women “on the inside”. They spoke about two women who had become Christians in prison and the ministries Prison Fellowship provide – the craft group where volunteers connect with women, the mentoring program, and Art From Inside. There is a great need for prayer and follow up support for women post-release.
Jane explains the meaning and purpose behind the gifts is “to provide each woman coming out of prison with a gift that will inspire hope for her future, and to demonstrate that her life has value. We don’t know who they are, whether they have had negative experiences of church; we leave it with God and pray for them.”