What We Do
Prison Network aims to reduce the impact of the issues leading to offending behaviour, which will in turn reduce recidivism and provide the opportunity for families to make generational changes.
Many of the women in prison in Victoria have come into contact with the criminal justice system after committing offences linked to personal circumstances of poverty, hardship and, overwhelmingly, trauma. It is estimated that close to 90% of these women are survivors of childhood sexual or physical abuse.
Many of the women in prison are unable to access the support they require to make significant changes to their lives. Prison Network's unique ability to provide personalised support without waiting lists or eligibility criteria enables many women to receive assistance in their lowest moments.
"They don’t judge you, which is a great feeling because so many other people in the prison do. I find it very difficult to trust people and I totally trusted these women."
Craft and Cooking
Craft and cooking programs are provided weekly for women at DPFC and fortnightly at Tarrengower. Women build confidence, develop skills and make gifts they may share with their children. A welcome distraction from the often chaotic and unsettling experience of the prison environment and allows relationships to form with Prison Network volunteers.
Fitness Class and Sport
A weekly fitness class (often followed by a game of netball/volleyball) encourages women to maintain physical and mental health, use leisure time constructively and develop positive social habits. Prison Network provides access to indoor and outdoor recreational activities that can help women develop positive habits to maintain their mental and physical health over the longer term.
Game on Day
Every 4-5 weeks a team of volunteers visit the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre on a Saturday morning to play sports with the women. This popular program provides women with the opportunity to play team sports such as netball, volleyball, and soccer against volunteers and staff. It provides a healthy physical activity and socialisation.
Faith and Life Discussion Group
As part of Prison Network's holistic approach, the weekly Discussion Group provides an opportunity to explore life and faith in a positive, safe and accepting environment.
"When you’re in prison, you feel alone and you feel like you are the lowest form of life. Prison Network puts some sort of meaning back in you as a human being. "
Prison Network supports the families of offending women, often providing follow up support to caregivers, parents and siblings. Prison Network also transports children to school holiday camps and into the prison for visits with their mothers.
Fun With Mum
A weekly program aiming to encourage contact between women and their children and provide for family visits that are safe and appropriate for children. Where needed child transport is also provided.
With a parent in prison, school holidays can be additionally isolating and lonely for children and can add pressure on their carers. Each year Prison Network provides opportunities for 20 children, with a mother in prison, to go on adventure camps during school holidays.
"It has meant a lot to me that you brought my daughter to see me. When I felt everyone, even my father and husband abandoned me, you amazing women brought me hope again"
Mentor and Support Program
Our post-release support workers are available to provide ongoing support to women after they leave prison. Unlike many other organisations, Prison Network is able to build on the connections made in prison which increases the likelihood of engagement. Post Release Mentor and Support provides women leaving prison with intensive support, mentoring and material aid as they navigate their way into community reintegration and tackle the issues that led to their incarceration, such as addiction, homelessness, domestic violence and unemployment.
Transitional Housing Program
One of the biggest issues facing women leaving prison is suitable housing. The provision of transitional housing can be a crucial aspect of a woman’s post release success. PN manages three fully furnished units, allowing us to provide housing to three women leaving prison, and their dependents, each year. Alongside the units, PN provides wrap around support assisting each woman to move towards independence, employment and building a safe and supportive community. 90% of the women who have participated, have gone on to live positive lives, and not returned to prison. Our Transitional Housing Program (THP) has proven to be a solid foundation to build from. The THP is a whole community initiative. It relies on: -Generous donors who subsidise the rent -Property owners who provide PN with properties to rent -Corporate volunteers who give a day to do maintenance and gardening.
Support Groups and Socialisation
Post Release Support Groups aim to build a strong community of safe, non-judgemental support, which encourages social inclusion and builds a bridge from marginalisation into community connectedness. Peer support is a key strength of the Support Groups allowing women to navigate a range of issues they are tackling upon release from prison. Women in remote and regional areas are able to participate in the groups via video conferencing. Once a month Support Group participants enjoy a day long social outing with staff and volunteers.