“The first time we got to run the [Change on the Inside] course was November last year. That was probably fourteen months after I first applied!” By necessity, Clyde* had to learn a lot about patience when volunteering in prison. “Of course, it’s worth the wait,” he says. “One doesn’t do this training and then put it on the shelf. I’m just pleased to help out when these things finally come together.”
Ian Townsend, SA/NT State Manager, created a prospectus of Prison Fellowship’s programs to present at each South Australian prison. “A number of prisons were interested in SLAM [sports programs] but I couldn’t find enough players at the time!” says Ian. “But one prison did put up their hand for Change on the Inside.” Over the next nine months, Ian discussed with the program coordinator about the logistics of running the course. Once it was approved, they found a space and timeslot that was convenient for the prison, and have now run four courses!
Having been part of all four courses, Clyde shares about his journey as a volunteer. “I haven’t done anything like this in a long time,” he says, but commends the accessibility of the course for inmates. “There are two things that engage well [with the prisoners]. One is that we are not paid staff. We choose to be there, and we aren’t preaching at them. The other is that stories and humour make the more serious points easier to receive.”
The team are excited to see small but steady growth in this program. “It is an opportunity to put something meaningful before the prisoners,” says Clyde. Watching inmates explore what they would do differently if they had their time over, and what they would do differently in the future as a result of the course, has been very rewarding.
Ian says the prison has been eager to have Change on the Inside running, and he is confident of the impact it is having. “It is getting a good wrap. The prison’s core business is making sure the prisoners are safe, that they don’t run away, and they are fed and showered. After that comes rehabilitation.” Ian values the work prison staff do and understands their high workload. Patience has been crucial, and has paid off in promoting a positive relationship between Prison Fellowship and the prison. We never take this for granted!
Ian Townsend, SA/NT State Manager
What’s the highlight of your week? Is it that coffee in your hand? Is it sitting in front of the TV watching your football team play at their best? Or is it picking your grandchildren up from child care and having them give you a cuddle that will stay with you for the next week? Maybe it’s as simple as enjoying the sunshine on your face.
Unfortunately for many of the men and women in Australian prisons they have little to look forward to. Prison may mean spending most of their day in their cell with little natural light – just four walls to keep them company. One of the ways that Prison Fellowship adds colour to inmates’ lives is through a program called Art From Inside. This year, South Australia introduced its first such program. Art From Inside encourages inmates to use their creativity to produce works that express who they are and what they are going through.
Despite only having permission to use standard HB grey pencils at this stage, Prison Fellowship volunteers run these classes once a fortnight and have been received enthusiastically by the inmates.
The classes are simple with a focus on drawing and sketching. Our art teacher brings in different pictures inmates can use as a guide. Many of the guys who attend have been “inside” for a long time and will remain in prison for months or years to come, so attending this 2-hour session once a fortnight has become a highlight. Although still not using colour pencils, it brings colour into these men’s lives.
– Ian Townsend, SA/NT State Manager