This storytelling project is not intended to minimise the offending of anyone we have profiled. The aim is to give a more complete picture and to humanise the crime and punishment debate. All of these stories are in the words of the people interviewed. In the editing process we have neither put words in people’s mouths, nor sanitised the stories. Often we selected one thread of a long interview to give the story some flow. Other aspects may be included as a follow up story. Not all of the stories are from people who have been inside; some are from people who work in reintegration and support, and a few work in prison.

The Howard League Humans of Our Prisons project is supported and maintained by Anglican Advocacy.  Stay in touch, new stories drop regularly.

Gary

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My crime was 25 years ago, but there’s still a huge stigma people have. Like, when I go to the supermarket, people give me a nod and say hello. And I think if you really knew would you even look at me? Finding work was really, really hard. When I applied for jobs I told them my offending history. Every single one said that people deserved a second chance, but never gave me one.

Simon

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“I ended up out at Rolleston Prison. Had a few hassles at first with one guy who wanted to beat me up, but then I got a job in the kitchen. When you have a job in the kitchen no one touches you because you have control of their food.

Irene

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It was death that broke the cycle. I went out and used drugs and got myself into a bit of trouble and then I had a heart attack and died one day at my brother’s. He did CPR on me for twenty-seven minutes. And I woke up in hospital the next day without a brain injury. My children were at the end of my bed that day and I knew – I just knew – that this was not how I should love them back.

Richard

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I enjoyed school, but I wanted to get out and work. That was at the age of 17. Things started to go haywire, and I ended up on the wrong side of the law. I was in and out of prison, in and out of court.

Norman

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I don’t know what prompted me to think “grab some books to keep your mind engaged,” but that’s what I started doing. I asked the officers if i could get some books from the library and I started to reading. It was probably the thing that saved my sanity to be honest. Once I got my school cert I had this sort of epiphany: “My mum fucking lied to me…

Kate

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“My husband and I are completely opposite. He’s challenged me in so many ways to turn my life around. If not for him, there’s a very real chance I could have been in prison as opposed to helping prisoners, which is an absolute asset to my job, because I know what it’s like to have addiction issues and stuff like that…

Henare

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I didn’t grow up in a Once Were Warriors household. That stigma that just because you’re brown, Jake the Muss must be your father… that wasn’t the kind of upbringing I had. When my mum died, I did get into alcohol – I was an impressionable 13-year-old struggling to grieve, because I was not taught how to process grief any other way but ‘booze.’ When I hit rock bottom, I felt the shame of standing before the judge, your family in tears and thinking, “what’s gonna happen now?”

Dr Paul

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There was a really smart guy in prison, a safe-cracker. One day, he showed me two objects, one heavy, one light, and asked me, which one will hit the ground first? I thought he was nuts. When they hit the ground at the same time, it blew my mind. From that moment, I realised I had beliefs about life that were wrong, and could change…

Chrissy

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I got fed up with all the politics and the bureaucracy. The way they advertise it is ‘come and make a difference, come and be a Corrections officer.’ It’s crap. You can’t. You can’t make a difference at a significant level. You can make a difference one-to-one with people that you work with, but you can’t actually get anywhere and progress things.

 

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