Off to prison … again! Mr. Cheal at the wheel driving the Unit 3 and 4 Legal Studies students. More intrigue about the curiosities of Victoria’s Prison System and its criminals? On this trip we were able to sit and discuss the situation of four prisoners in an amazingly honest and ‘frank’ manner. We were lucky to be allowed to go in and look at the Dhurringile Mansion, a nineteenth century building with superb heritage listed architecture and internal period fittings. It has been mansion, orphanage and prisoner of war camp, before it became a prison, in its long history.

The prisoners began with the ‘Guess what I am in for’ game – one of their favourites. We had three guesses for each prisoner and succeeded with two. This, in itself, was a lesson learned about stereo-typing and appearances. The ‘panel’ of prisoners then discussed general matters about our justice and jail system as they had, between them, vast experience of many of Victoria’s prisons including Barwon, Port Phillip, Loddon, the Remand Centre and the Melbourne Assessment Prison.

We then broke into small groups where the prisoners shared more intimate tales of their journeys from crime to rehabilitation. These were truly fascinating. It reads like a ‘Crime-True Stories’ show, but even more interesting. There was manslaughter committed with a ‘coward punch’; fraud in a very successful business which had been featured on ‘Grand Designs Australia’; drug manufacturing, trafficking and smuggling and culpable driving. The inmates were seemingly honest yet regretful of their crimes and some were only two thirds of the way through their sentences, whilst others were near the end. One was in for 10 years!  All hoped they were being rehabilitated. We certainly hope so!? They were all quite articulate. There were a few flaws in some of their stories which suggests they were a little deluded but we were able to clarify this with some research (thanks Jess’ Muir and Lauren Kelly).

Dhurringile is a minimum security working prison farm with no walls or fences. The prisoners are even allowed out! They help in the community with Lions and at Aqua Moves in Shepparton with children with disabilities. One is even hoping to soon play football for Merrigum, another for Murchison!

All in all, both a stimulating and memorable visit, one which will not be readily forgotten!

Mr. Stewart Cheal (Legal Studies teacher)