Yet again I left Port Phillip Prison Youth Unit excited and sad; excited by the opportunity of these young men who are ready to embrace life, full of ideas and potential, and sad that they remain in a maximum security prison, many for years to come.
Their stories are currently being filmed in preparation for an initiative that the young prisoners themselves have instigated, ‘Stories from the Inside’; an attempt to stop others making what have so often been errors of judgement, spontaneous outbursts that have led to devastating outcomes.
I get shivers when I think of how easily these young men could be one of my sons, it only takes one careless decision. Over 7,500 15-18yr olds are in the juvenile justice system in NSW alone and Australia’s prison population is growing at a rate that is four times that of the general population (ABS 2009).
I can’t help but imagine the power of the boys’ program to be launched in schools. For young people who believe it will never happen to them, perhaps hearing that it can and does from one of their own may get the message through.
The family around Igniting Change has already enabled so much for the amazing Anne Hooker who set up the Youth Unit at Port Phillip Prison against all odds – the t-shirt printing business Doin’ Time which to date has raised over $180K for charity, jobs via the pioneering Toll Group, the funding of programs, and gym equipment from Virgin Unite.