Friday, April 27, 2018

Tales from the Slammer #2

Tales from the Slammer #2

On the first day, I walked around the edges of the tall, thick, whitewashed walls. There are sparse, newly planted native gardens and the prison itself is surrounded by bush covered hills and rocky outcrops. There is a whole suburb that wraps itself around the back of the prison. Nestled and a little incongruous. Strangely, on the path from the staff carpark to the entrance are some convict cut sandstone stairs that lead to the bottom of the wall. There are no doors there – a strange throwback to the time when this whole island was a prison and those large, heavy bricks were cut by the indentured labour, my ancestors, who we call ‘the convicts.’

I consider the myths of this place, Risdon Prison, anonymous and impenetrable. It crept into my childhood via the media with the harshest and most elaborate crimes, crimes that inform the psyche of all Tasmanians, crimes that in our small town are still too ripe and raw - unhealed tissue - to drop into casual conversation. Crimes that we still feel the sting of. 

The individual voices here are distinct and proud and personal and more often than not, damaged. They are fathers and husbands and sons, they are struggling with their lives, their incarceration and their crimes. They are individuals and their kid’s names tattooed on their arms belie how much they love them.

The Prisoner Education and Training (PEAT) section is lit with fluorescent lights and, although one of the rabbit warren training rooms has natural light, to work here in winter must be dispiriting. It’s summer now and the rumbling too-cold aircon makes a pervasive soundscape.

There is also an entire library, the Risdon LINC, which is a wonderful thing. It must be a bubble within the broader prison complex and, while the inmates bring their tussles and torments in with them, I can only imagine how the rehab unit feels, how maximum might feel, how an individual cell may feel. We are all just big pieces of tofu, taking on the flavours of those around us, the aromas of the space we inhabit. How does a space define and inform us?
I am doing this as a Writer in Residence and hope to use creative writing and storytelling as a vehicle to move them into a space where reading and writing is easier, where verbal communication (not with fists) is owned, powerful and even progressive. I hope to open some tiny creative cracks, to help them find tools to tell their own stories, to place themselves within a broader narrative. To pull focus and to tell their tales with a distinctive beauty. I have not yet held the first session.

1 comment:

Paige Turner November

  Edging towards the end of the year and towards summer, towards Christmas and all it allows us to manifest. Good luck and good sleeps to ...