Future Shapers 2021 Reflection
The experience of vising Langi Kal Kal and in more recent times Hopkins Correctional Centre, is now considered a hallmark of the program. Our Future Shapers 21 (FS21) were fortunate enough to visit Hopkins just prior to the fourth lockdown.
On arrival at Hopkins Prison, we heard from general manager Scott. Hopkins has 798 beds and is expanding to 930. It is one of the biggest prisons in Victoria. It caters for people of a diverse age range, from young people to people in their 90s and from diverse cultural backgrounds. “Whatever you find in the community you will find in Hopkins,” Scott said.
Hopkins is a protection prison, which means it caters for offenders that are required to be separated from other prisoners. All sex offenders go to Hopkins because they definitely need protection, but there are many others for example people from bikie gangs or people who previously held roles in the community like police officers.
Scott talked about his leadership style of creating a culture of equality, that no one was more important than anyone else in the staff team. That is the first thing he says to new recruits. 30 per cent of the staff are female and that is improving year on year.
Rehabilitation is a big focus of the prison, with programs on personal development and targeted at specific criminal behaviour. Case management is a big part of the rehabilitation system. The physical layout of the prison is open plan and relies on prisoner behaviour not physical security.
In regards to the prison’s focus on rehabilitation, Scott said being separated from the community was the punishment and the prison’s job was to prepare a prisoner to be law abiding when they are released back into the community. He said a big part of that was seeing them as an individual and a person rather than a prisoner. “The only way I can protect you is to give them opportunities to rehabilitate,” he said. “If people don’t get parole it is because we failed and it means we didn’t get them ready for release.”
Following our tour prisoners who work in the kitchen made delicious food and coffee for us when we came together again at the visitor centre. Speaking with prisoners in small groups was a real reminder that everyone is human. People do make mistakes but the things that make us human remain the same, love for family, need to feel value through employment and the need for self-development.
Staff member Rhonda spoke about the big issues for prisoners upon their release and barriers to re-integration: housing and employment. Prisoners are put onto social housing lists as soon as they enter prison but it can take up to 10 years to be offered a place due to lack of housing supply. Prisoners worry about where they are going to live upon their release and they usually need an address to be granted parole. They also worry about who will employ them with a criminal record.
I am so grateful for this experience. It was an incredible insight into the way the prison system operates and its focus on rehabilitation. It highlights how powerful, experiences like this, can be in breaking down stigma and changing your mindset.
Compassion is so important in helping address issues in the community.