‘A Great Release’
As a regular Visitor In Prison (VIP), one meets a lot of inmates each week. What made Danny* different was that he made us coffee each time we visited. We joked with him that he should be doing training as a barista to equip him for a job on release.
He was approaching his release day, having been in jail for most of his life, from teenage years until his fifties, in several “instalments”. However, this time, he voiced a determination not to come back. During this time in prison, he had become a Christian.
As Danny approached his release date, it was hard to know when he was going to be released. With prisoners locked in their rooms for such long periods of time in the COVID-19 lockdown, every day of time served counted for two days served, making it difficult to calculate how much earlier Danny would be released. I was able to write to him in the times when we were not allowed to visit, and he responded quite regularly. In my letters I asked him to let me know when he was being released, and to tell me how I could get in touch with him, once he was released. Imagine my absolute joy when I received the first letter from him after release, with his mobile number included.
Thereafter we kept in regular contact by phone and text whilst he navigated the process of having his accommodation allocated. He was fortunate enough to be given a unit close to a major suburban shopping centre; also conveniently located for public transport. Once this was complete, another VIP and I arranged to meet up with him. It was just great to see him again, now smartly presented and attired, far different from what he looked like in prison. We had a light snack for lunch, and enjoyed a lot of chatter.
My fellow VIP fortunately had access to goods and furniture from St Vinnies, and neighbours willing to help out. So Danny now has a very pleasant, and nicely furnished and located unit. As well he has been allocated a very helpful assistant from Corrections.
Danny has kept in touch with us on a very regular basis. Probably his greatest joy has been to meet with his three sons, not seen for 18 years. Most of us would not know the joy of this kind of reunion, not having been absent for so long. And now he has told us that he has had a phone conversation, in pleasant terms, with his former wife.
We have been hopeful of being able to link Danny up with a supportive church group, but have not been successful thus far. We have been able to connect him with a Men’s Shed, so that should be helpful. Other Prison Fellowship volunteers are also supporting him too.
We do plan to continue our contact with Danny, attending sporting and other events of mutual enjoyment, such as AFL and cricket. And it will be great to include him in wider family events.
This whole experience has been just so enjoyable, and so much of it has gone exceedingly well. Thank you God for your thorough care and guidance in all this.
– John*, Prison Fellowship volunteer
* Names have been changed