Working in partnership with the local church is essential for Prison Fellowship, and for inmates as they exit prison. In South Australia our State Manager Ian Townsend has been working in post-release support (T24) in partnership with his local church, with plans to continue working with them and other churches in South Australia.
Transition 24 (T24) seeks to offer support to a released person in forming restorative relationships with members of the community, overcoming the challenges of change, and enabling a positive way forward to life in the community.
This is a story of one such individual.
Jonathon* was only in his twenties when he went to prison. Throughout his sentence, Jonathon worked hard and attended countless rehabilitation programs, skills training opportunities, and pursued one of his passions – IT and web design.
In late 2017, with the likelihood of parole in the air and contact via a mutual friend, Jonathon agreed to meet with Ian. Ian had previously spoken to the prison as he had heard that Johnathon was a potential candidate for the program.
The meeting went well as they discussed the aspects of the program that could assist Jonathon, and some of the restrictions and practical issues to consider. Jonathon was eager to pursue IT opportunities and wanted to explore this with the local church.
The church also runs a Men’s Shed. The Men’s Shed is a group of a dozen mostly-retired men, who do a range of tasks around the property, and also off site. These tasks include lawn mowing, gardening at the community garden, plumbing, painting, cleaning, collecting metal rubbish, along with community projects such as cleaning up the yards of older members of the community.
Ian proposed to Jonathon that he become involved with the group. At first he wasn’t eager, as after many years in prison he was more comfortable alone, and the thought of these dirty messy jobs did not appeal greatly. But Jonathon agreed as he wanted more than anything to get out of the prison and start to participate in community.
Six months later you would not recognise any level of hesitation. Men’s Shed day is the highlight of Jonathon’s week and he is a valued and loved member of the team. Jonathon enjoys the variety of tasks they perform and has learnt much from the older members of the group, who value him for his patience and willingness to learn and help. Through the Men’s Shed Jonathon has also had the opportunity to attend a program called “Spanner in the Works”, which looks at a range of topics relevant to men’s health.
While attending the Men’s Shed, Johnathon also worked with the administration team at the church and updated a website for a ministry connected with the church, and continues to maintain this and other church-related websites on a weekly basis.
Prison Fellowship’s T24 program can play an important role in the lives of people like Jonathon by forming positive relationships while he was in prison and building links with the community upon release. Ultimately, links such as these are crucial to reducing recidivism rates and restoring positive connections.