Dear Mr Turnbull,
I would like to add my support to the prisoner in yesterday’s Guardian who wishes for access to the Redress Scheme.
The State created this man’s criminality.
If he had not been brutalized in an orphanage, he would have at least had a chance to avoid becoming a criminal.
The members of the group Formerly in Children’s Homes (FICH) (which Lew and I began in 1990 and ended in 1993) all had strong opinions about this issue. Some believed that because they had avoided prison themselves, they should be treated better than those who fell victim to criminal behaviour. Research from other parts of the world revealed that at least half of care leavers end up in jail. Why not all of them?
But then one distinction was identified. This factor, according to my late husband, was the one which kept him out of jail.
Most kids, even those who suffered terrible abuse, can name one teacher, or one adult, who seemed to care, just once. It might have been in class one day. The kid might have known the answer to a question none of the others knew. They might have arrived at a mathematical solution first in the class, or understood a line of poetry before anyone else did. They might have shown kindness to another kid, and been rewarded by a smile from one of the teachers.
Whatever it was, the kid who was terribly abused and didn’t end up in jail is different from those who did. That one act of kindness, or small triumph, could be all that separated them from the kids who went on to become adult offenders, and lost all hope. The system failed them, but more importantly,
WE are failing prisoners who were in Care as children.
Mr Turnbull, you have enjoyed a life of great privilege. It is not for you to judge those who didn’t, who had to flee from abusive homes, ended up on the streets, turned to drugs and then prostitution to fund their habit. It is not your right to say to any prisoner that they don’t deserve Redress.
Ask any one of these prisoners how they ended up where they did. Was there a good teacher somewhere in their history, or a kind neighbour (not the predatory kind) who smiled and waved to them as they went past? Probably not. Chances are, the kids who grew up to be prisoners in adult jails missed out on being shown any kindness at all. One small act of kindness stays with a person for life. The lack of any compassion at all might kill the spirit. Not paying Redress to victims of this kind of childhood is going to compound the abuse.
Again, we need to ask this question:
How many prisoners in Australian jails were in care as children?
Part 2: February 9th
I’ve just found some art work by Vaughan Lindsay Roberts. He gave us these when we worked at Wacol Prison in 1993, as well as a letter he wrote. I hope he found his family again.
Vaughan Lindsay Roberts, 1993
Vaughan Lindsay Roberts, 1993
Prisoners who were in care, I hope you get to watch the episode of ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ that was made inside Rikers Island Prison, New York.