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
The weekly craft and cooking program provides activities that empower the women with skills to create easy-to-prepare snacks and explore recreational activities which can be undertaken post-release. Importantly, successfully completing the activities fosters positive self-esteem, pride in their work and a sense of accomplishment. The program also provides the women with an opportunity to build relationships with Prison Network staff and volunteers in an informal way.
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 Prison Network volunteers visit the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre on a Saturday morning to play sports with the women. This is a great opportunity for the women to play games such as netball, volleyball, soccer or cricket in a competitive sporting environment. It is a relaxed social atmosphere followed by lunch, which provides the women and Prison Network staff with the opportunity to connect and for the women to participate in activities that support their physical and mental wellbeing.
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.
"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"
Post Release Support
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, together with out of hours support over the longer term. Support includes practical (eg. material aid, court attendance and referrals to appropriate agencies and professionals), relational (mentoring and assistance in the development of a positive social network), emotional and spiritual (providing connection to faith communities if desired) to the women and their families.
Sourcing safe, affordable and appropriate accommodation is a significant issue for many women on their release from custody. Prison Network provides supported transitional accommodation for women with our fully furnished unit accommodating one woman and her dependents and Prison Network support workers providing intensive support to assist in the successful reintegration into the community.