A balmy Monday morning in April and the Year 11(and some Year 10) Legal Studies students, Hannah with Chealy at the wheel head to Castlemaine to visit Loddon and Middleton Prisons,  medium and restricted minimum security jails housing over 500 inmates.

On arrival we went through some very strict security checks where a few piercings and jewellery nearly tripped the alarm, as did Chealy’s titanium knee, at least we were re-assured the security worked!

The group was then ushered through the electrified wire walls and double security doors into the prison visiting area where we received an initial briefing from the Corrections Officers.

The panel of prisoners then joined our group and played the ‘What did I do?’ game in which none of us were able to guess correctly. We then heard about the crimes, courtroom and prison experiences of five prisoners including a murderer(with a samurai sword no less!); 1 armed robber(who had been ‘inside’ for 27 years over at least four offences); 2 convicted of fraud(amounting to millions of dollars) and 1 trafficking commercial quantities of methamphetamine. Wow factor! It was absolutely fascinating, the students were amazed at the candour of the inmates and their ability to articulate what they had done and the impact on the legal system and society. The students asked questions, showing admirable insight and maturity in so doing. The Corrections Officers complimented our College on the quality and maturity of our students.

The small group sessions with the panel of prisoners lasted well over an hour, even then the discussions could have gone longer.

At the end of the presentations there was time to review our afternoon and for the prisoners to leave us with some parting messages, mostly relating to the consequences of making the wrong choices, especially where illegal drugs and alcohol are concerned.

“Remember, prisoners wear a badge, and the badge closes most doors”, said the panel leader., “the only things to do when you leave here are basic unskilled jobs or join the unemployment queue!”

“Our families suffer so much too”

We boarded the bus for the trip home reflecting on what we had learned on one of the more memorable outings offered at Echuca College. We also learned more about our murderer who was ‘googled’ and it turned out his crime was quite horrendous. The group was left to ponder on the lives of those we left behind and their tragic but mostly real stories. Everybody is accountable for their actions!

What an intriguing day out!

Mr. Stewart Cheal (Legal Studies Teacher)