Only in my world, is it a compliment when someone says to you - you must have been to prison? - as that person feels that I understand them, what they are saying and where they are at, to the point where I must have been there to “get it”. During a recent conversation in prison, as I was asked that question, I was reminded of how important that connection and relationship is for people who are looking at that gate opening full of hope that it will be different this time and full of fear that it won’t be. At any time of the year it is an anxious time, but none more so than Christmas. To be “got”, to be seen and to be heard is a starting point for a real connection that can and does survive the complex transition from prison to the real world.
When we meet someone for the first time in prison we have a 15-20 minute opportunity to build a relationship that can stand the test of prison and beyond…
15 minutes where we begin a conversation about hopes, plans, realities and actions - without opening old wounds or sending someone back onto their prison landing in a vulnerable state.
15 minutes where people know we “get” them and all that comes with that
15 minutes where we support people to explore different choices in lifestyles, habits and friends, while at the same time not supporting offending behaviours.
15 minutes where people have to risk trusting us, so they can take different steps, make different moves before and after that gate is open.
15 minutes where people are challenged and supported in the same breath
15 minutes where we strive to only leave a positive footprint in a person’s life
15 minutes might not seem important in any given day – especially when you have 24/7 freedom – but 15 minutes when you’re looking at life and death choices, is a time to be valued – to see someone in their entirety and not just defined by their criminal actions. It is 15 minutes that start to grow the first of many trusting, safe and constructive relationships that will last as people move forward more positively in their lives - meanders and all.