Hearing a live blues band, doing the Hokey Cokey and listening to poetry usually aren’t usually part of COTA’s outreach, but we enjoyed them all on 11 November at HMP Langi Kal Kal (LKK).
LKK, or ‘resting place of the singing cicada’, is a minimum security prison in Victoria with the largest number of older male prisoners. COTA representatives joined Corrections staff and close to 100 older prisoners to celebrate the launch of COTA’s Prison Diary 2017: a post-release resource for older prisoners.
The Diary is more than just a calendar. It’s also rich with clear and direct information, tips and photos to help with the transition from prison to the outside world. The Diary is the end product of a rewarding project that started with a simple offer: ‘We provide information services to older people, is there anything we could do for you?’
The response was overwhelming. Prisoners spoke openly, sometimes with emotions quite raw, of their fears about their release into the community: of leaving friends behind in prison; having lost family and friends; knowing nothing of modern technology; and lacking the skills for independent living in the outside world. The men agreed that what they needed was a reference book with information, tips, photographs and contacts to refer to when they were released.
The group set the agenda for fortnightly focus groups, where they agreed on the Diary format and decided content, layout and graphic design. We agreed that prisoners should receive the Diary six months before release, giving them time to get a feel for the information and to personalise the Diary according to where they would live.
SIV hopes to continue our work with older people in prison. LKK is being now developed as a purpose-built facility to serve older prisoners’ needs relating to ageing, health and reintegration. We believe this will be the first facility of its kind in Australia.
Our special thanks go to Susan Cassar, Senior Programs Coordinator LKK, without whose generosity SIV would not have had such open access to the prisoners; and to the Transition and Reintegration Unit at Corrections Victoria whose support has meant that the Diary is available across Victoria.