No doubt we all have memories of the school yard bullies. Who could forget them? These bullies bestowed harmful physical and emotional treatment upon peers. And most of time, it included the cruellest names and labels. Names that stuck like mud. Names and labels that were often so much more than just words.

They pierced the very core of a tender and fragile formative child’s heart. And sometimes, they even shaped and fashioned one’s lifelong identity. You may not think of yourself as a bully. But if we are really honest, we would see that we are all guilty of name calling. Labelling a person through our perception of who they are, and who they should be.

Many of the women Prison Network engage with have been at the pointy end of this reality. Some as children, and for others, this childish school yard behaviour of name-calling has followed them into adulthood. And now, as they find themselves caught up in the revolving door that can be the criminal justice system, it can be pretty tough to shake the ‘label’.

Prison Network isn’t bound by these labels. And chooses to use new ones. They name those that have been called ‘hopeless’- ‘hopeful’; ‘unworthy’ are called ‘loved’, and those that are ‘lost’ are ‘found’.

It is through this work, the work of renaming, reimagining and restoring, that these extraordinary women can shake off their labels, rebuilt their lives and fulfil their dreams.

By Lavinia Podalk (Prison Network Board Director)