Celebrating inside

Last week I posted about the festival season starting in Perth; yesterday it continued in an unexpected way with the Gala Day at the Boronia Pre-Release Centre for Women.

I’ve never been to a festival – well, to any event – at a prison before.  I only heard of it yesterday morning, when a friend posted about it on Facebook.  As her sister is an inmate I visit regularly,  I decided to go to the Gala Day.

Visitors could buy handcrafts, second hand books, plants, Devonshire teas, sausage sizzle, have their face painted or their blood pressure checked.  At midday there was an auction of artwork by prisoners from around the state, but unfortunately I couldn’t stay that long.

Purchases were paid for in ‘Boronia dollars’, exchanged on a dollar for dollar basis with real money before entering.  There was a big crowd of inmates’s friends and locals, and the Devonshire teas and plant sales were particularly popular. The 2011 Gala Day raised $25 000 for charity, and this year’s proceeds will benefit the Cat Haven and The Indigenous Parent Factor.

Boronia aims to help re-introduce women prisoners to the community and thus reduce the chances of them re-offending.  Unlike Bandyup Women’s Prison, it doesn’t look like a jail, either from the outside or past the front doors.  The main visiting area is modelled on a cafe, with a food and coffee counter, patio area, playground and attractive gardens.  The women live in shared houses, and the overall impression is of a shared community, not a prison.  (Very unlike Bandyup!)

My friend will be eligible for parole next year. When I last posted about her situation I’d seen no signs of repentance or regret. Happily, that is no longer the case.  Though we’ve not discussed it in detail, I know she is well aware of the impact or conviction has had on others as well as herself, and is determined not to re-offend.  Her aim is to be paroled as soon as possible, though it’s not clear where she’ll live or how she’ll support herself; her house is now the property of the state, as all her assets were seized when she was declared a drug trafficker, and she has no profession to fall back on.  After completing a number of courses ‘on the inside’ she hopes to find work in the nursery industry, and I hope she’s able to make a success of life after prison.





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