The failure of law and order

The hidden costs of incarceration

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  • Published 20160202
  • ISBN: 978-1-925240-80-1
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

‘TWO-MINUTE NOODLES!’ Lee is leaning forward on the edge of her sofa, animated. She’d recently visited an old jail-mate who was still in the Emu Plains prison in Sydney’s west, and the two women had reminisced about the noodles. ‘They brought in pre-cooked meals, and you’d get dinner around 3.30 pm. We weren’t supposed to reheat the meals later, but we did because 3.30 was too early to eat. We’d get a little packet of chicken wings, three wings each. Later, we’d all put our chicken wings together, break the chicken off, andget the two-minute noodles and a can of mushrooms that we’d buy on buy-up, and a can of diced capsicum, and make up a meal from that that was more tasty than the pre-packaged food.’

Previously, things had been better. The women had been growing vegetables, some doing TAFE courses in horticulture, and they cooked their own meals from scratch in cottages. That was when they were at Berrima Gaol, in the New South Wales Southern Highlands. Berrima Gaol was, Lee says, ‘amazing’. She was a poker-machine addict who was jailed for fraud. It was at Berrima that she began to understand how the pokies blocked out earlier traumas. Just before she went to jail she had a breakdown, and through a family dispute lost contact with her young son. In jail she learnt techniques for managing her depression. Weighed down by shame and sorrow, she was encouraged to focus on things she could take pride in.

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