Not all prisoners are mean, scary and dangerous. Sadly, some are simply a victim of circumstance, imprisoned by their poor choices, impulsive behaviour or unfortunate circumstances. These are the prisoners I am referring to in this writing. My brother is one of them. Excluded from society as punishment for their behaviour and choices, all prisoners experience the full depth of exclusion in so many ways. We tend to forget that they are someone’s son, daughter, wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, mother or father. Every single prisoner has a story. A life that they left behind. It’s not a place to go to be repaired and rehabilitated. It’s a place you go that will either make or break you. It breaks most people; some a little and some quite a lot.

We hear about prisons in the movies and on TV all the time and it’s so easy to make assumptions about what life is really like ‘on the inside.’ The thing that we forget, is that these people are still HUMAN BEINGS. Shouldn’t the way in which we treat prisoners, reflect the way in which we want them to act, be, feel and accomplish when they re-join society? Sadly, they’re often released far more broken than they are rehabilitated, prohibiting them from leading a somewhat ‘normal’ life. How can this possibly be good for them, their families or society? How can this possibly reduce reoffending? Are we trying to punish for the sake of punishing? Or should we be taking active steps towards repairing society, one lost, remorseful person at a time. Prisoners need lifeboats, not anchors.

Here’s a few things that you might not know about their experiences.

Prisoners don’t get told much about their situation. Nor do they get many opportunities to ask.

Many don’t know what support is available to them; mental, emotional, medical or otherwise. When they do gain information about accessing these services, they often wait a long time to receive it.

If you have difficulty reading or writing, then that’s unfortunate.

Some guards take pleasure in having power. 

Most are capable of working within their facilities, but many don’t due to their poor  emotional well-being and feelings of worth as individuals.

Mental health is of real concern.

If you’re hurt or assaulted, no one comes to help you. Not. One. Person. Ambulances take hours.

Duty of care is expected, but not always provided.

Those who are strong mentally and physically are at an advantage.

And finally, if you don’t have someone persistent on the ‘outside’ then you have little chance of being heard when you really need to be. Advocacy is a privilege.

In my determination to change to the culture within prisons as just one big sister, I start with an acknowledgement of what we should be aspiring to achieve: Advocacy and rehabilitation in order to make positive changes for individuals, families and society in the long term. Can the current structure of support and staff within prisons provide this? I don’t believe so. Otherwise we would be seeing positive change coming out of prison sentences and fewer cells required in the first place. This brings me to the most powerful profession in the world. Teaching.

I can’t help but think about the difference that teachers make in their roles with young people. Although most of the young people they work with don’t have criminal records, teachers guide these impressionable people through millions of shades of change, confusion, emotion and trauma; every single day. Imagine what could be possible for inmates. 

The power of teachers:

Teachers have the ability to create positivity from the worst situations, and up skill and validate everyone’s place in this world.

They can take a broken person and make them feel worthy of their existence.

They prioritise well-being as the foundation for all learning, growth and change being able to occur. 

They listen with an empathetic ear, ensuring that every voice is heard. Every story is important. As is every individual person.

They are fair and calm negotiators.

They see through the muddiest bullsh*t and make acute and accurate observations.

The can spot a diamond in the mud. 

They can assess a person’s needs and plan efficiently for their success, leading them via pathways that weren’t even visible or possible to that person beforehand.

They differentiate their instruction to meet an individual at their point of need.

They give feedback in a timely manner and create an atmosphere of inclusion through consultation.

They shine a light on an individual’s strength and potential, then they show them how to maximise it and reach their full potential.

They set the expectations high and then support individuals to achieve them.

They set clear expectations and are calmly consistent in their messages.

They are persistent,  consistent and insistent.

They can tell that someone is lying and they don’t accept excuses. 

Safety is always a priority.

They provide positive reinforcement rather than negative.

They console when there is upset and council when there is torment.

They act on behalf of individuals as advocates, not resting until their voice has been heard.

They communicate back to individual’s loved ones, ensuring that the valued lines of communication are open and functioning.

They educate and up skill.

They identify then raise the aspirations of those that didn’t even know they had any to begin with.

They believe in every individual.

They create pathways for employment and education so that everyone has a chance at a successful future.

They seek access to appropriate health and mental care.

Teachers can take any individual, and potentially change their entire future. Teachers can change the world. Perhaps if given the chance, they could change the future for people in prisons and provide so many opportunities for growth, change and success. 

Some may argue that prisoners simply aren’t worth it, but I beg to differ. Yes, people in custody have been excluded from society for valid reasons. But should they be excluded from being advocated or having a better future? I think not. Everyone is capable of making positive change when the pathways and opportunities are provided through positivity and support. We are all human beings and so are people in custody.

If teachers worked in prisons, they could change the world, simply by changing the world for just one human being.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Tash Guthrie

I’m Tash and I’m a full time primary school teacher, a business owner, business coach and a busy mum. I live on a beautiful rural property on the Far North Coast of NSW Australia with my gorgeous hubby and baby girl, Amelia. I adore wine, cheese platters and parking my butt in front of a good renovation or property TV show. I am so incredibly passionate about women in business and have coached hundreds of women to build businesses from home that support their family, nurture their true self and create a flexible lifestyle, completely on their terms. You can visit me over at www.tashguthrie.com.au

God Has You

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman hugging herself while looking to the side

Holding tight to the cold, sterile rail of the narrow, rollaway ER bed, I hovered helplessly over my oldest daughter. My anxious eyes bounced from her now steadying breaths to the varying lines and tones of the monitor overhead. Audible reminders of her life that may have just been spared. For 14 years, we’d been told anaphylaxis was possible if she ingested peanuts. But it wasn’t until this recent late autumn evening we would experience the fear and frenzy of our apparent new reality. My frantic heart hadn’t stopped racing from the very moment she struggled to catch a breath....

Keep Reading

My Husband Having a Stroke at 30 Wasn’t in Our Plans

In: Faith, Living
Husband and wife, selfie, color photo

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV) This verse in the book of Jeremiah has long been a favorite of mine. In fact, it’s felt relevant across many life events. Its simple, yet powerful reminder has been a place of solace, perhaps even a way to maintain equilibrium when I’ve felt my world spinning a bit out of control. In this season of starting fresh and new year intentions, I find great comfort in knowing...

Keep Reading

She Left Him on Valentine’s Day

In: Faith, Marriage
Husband kissing wife on cheek, color photo

“Can you believe that?” Those were the dreaded knife-cutting whispers I heard from across the table. I sunk deeper into my chair. My hopes fell as everyone would forever remember that I had left my fiancée on Valentine’s Day. Maybe one day it would just dissipate like the dream wedding I had planned or the canceled plane tickets for the Hawaiian honeymoon. Some bridesmaids and guests had already booked plane tickets. It was my own nightmare that kept replaying in my head over and over again. I had messed up. Big time. To be honest, if it made any difference,...

Keep Reading

God was In the Room for Our Daughter’s Open Heart Surgery

In: Faith, Motherhood
Child's hand with IV

I’ve had a strong faith for as long as I can remember, but I always felt bad that I never had a “testimony.” I had never gone through something that made me sit back and say, “Wow, God is real, He is here.” I have always felt it to my core, but no moment had ever stopped me dead in my tracks to where there was no denying that it was God. And then, that moment happened to me on December 5. After five months of fervently praying for a miracle for our daughter, the day came for her heart...

Keep Reading

A Benediction for the Worn Out Mother

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman leaning against kitchen counter, black-and-white photo

Blessed are you, Father, for bestowing upon me the honor of motherhood. For allowing me to experience the deep joy of bringing forth life—a joy I often take for granted and instead choose to begrudge. My children’s cries and demands have worn me down. I do not recognize myself. I selfishly long for the old me. My thoughts are an intangible mess of never-ending tasks, self-criticism, and comparison to those around me. RELATED: God Sees You, Weary Mama But Your word says you are near to the broken-hearted and downtrodden. You do not forget the cause of the tired and the...

Keep Reading

God Doesn’t Forget You When You’re Lost and Unsure

In: Faith, Living
Woman looking into camera, color photo

I’ve been wandering around feeling lost for over a year. Wondering where I’m going, what I’m supposed to be doing. Nothing seems to make sense. I felt purposeless. I felt stuck. I questioned everything: my faith, my marriage, my career—if it could be questioned, I doubted it. And I was completely clueless how to fix the funk. For over a year, I’ve been in the wilderness. I’ve wanted to find my way, but every path seemed like another dead end. The wilderness. I’ve been residing there. Not feeling fed. Not feeling heard. Not feeling seen. Struggling to find a purpose....

Keep Reading

And Then, the Darkness Lifts

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother with baby smiling

Today when I woke, it had lifted, like sunshine peeking after rain. And as my toddler clicked on the lamp beside my bed to see her mama, I saw me too. I got out of bed and I walked down the hall. And the coffee pot sat there waiting for me, as always, like my husband at the kitchen table with his books. He smiled at me, and I think he could tell as I took my medicine, took down a mug, and poured my coffee. I opened the secretary desk and pulled out the chair and my Bible, like...

Keep Reading

Joy in This Stillness

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother holding sleeping toddler, color photo

I woke up suddenly in a sweat while it was still dark. Except for the humming of the oxygen machine, the house was silent. For a moment, I thought I might have time to enjoy a cup of coffee before my son woke up. However, a glance at my daughter’s crib told me that feeding my caffeine addiction would have to wait. My daughter has a terminal brain disorder called Lissencephaly, a side effect of which is uncontrolled epilepsy. Many mornings, a subconscious recognition that she is having episodes of repeated seizures rouses me from my sleep. Throwing on a...

Keep Reading

Sometimes All We Can Do Is Say How Hard Motherhood Is

In: Faith, Motherhood
Tired mom with baby in foreground

I have been sitting in the peace and quiet of the office to do some long overdue Bible study for all of five minutes when the baby wakes up. With a heavy sigh that is becoming all too common, I go to the bedroom to pick up my fussy, probably getting sick, 8-month-old daughter who has been asleep for approximately 15 minutes. I bring her to the office and put her on the floor with some new books and toys. Sitting back down in front of my own new book of Bible maps and charts, I begin reading once again....

Keep Reading

Sometimes I Want to Skip This Part

In: Faith, Living
Husband and wife sitting on swing, color photo

Kelly Clarkson’s new album Chemistry is about the arch of her relationship with her husband and their divorce. The first song on the album is called “skip this part.” It begins with her asking if she can skip the heartbreak. She begs to jump over the deep pain that came with her divorce. The song is haunting and beautiful and says things like, “my heart can’t forget the ache before the mend.” She is honest and vulnerable, admitting she is not sure if she has the strength to get through the pain. She just wants it all to be over, for...

Keep Reading