Words From the Inside

Some of these words have been taken from letters written to Justice Action, others are referenced.

"Being inside gives you an unerasable sense of alienation from mainstream society. The sense that what you know is worlds apart from what most people know never leaves you. Your eyes have been opened and you can never forget what you have seen."
Blanche Hampton, Prisons and Women, 1993

"Goulburn – caged or locked in cockroach infested cells. I’ve done time in LBJ, I know what cockroaches look like, but I’ve never seen anything as bad as this. Want to know why the place is cockroach infested? We’re fed shit and locked up in our cells to eat it.

Usually two out. So two blokes eat their meal. What happens to the scraps? How are the plates washed – there’s no hot water in the cells?

Rehabilitation? That page is torn from every dictionary here. How can anyone expect the regime at Goulburn to rehabilitate someone?“
– Tony 1999

"We are shipped from all over the state – forced to participate in re-education programs to cure us of our crimes. There’s one problem. This is currently a working gaol, so those that only want to do the re-education courses or those that are sick or are threatened with being tipped to the Killing Fields (Goulburn). Don’t work and you pack your bags".
T.S. 1999

"When I was on the outside and I felt really down I had a lot of people to talk to at the time I was depressed…Here in prison to talk to someone…when you are depressed you have to put in forms in which takes days before you see anyone and it is too late".
Bruce, 2001

"I was told in plain terms that overcrowding at Mulawa facilitated my move, and that personal achievements, goals, or trying to rehabilitate oneself through education had no bearing…On arriving at Emu Plains I was confronted with a situation where there are only jobs available for 1/3 of the inmates, an education department that allows for approx. 3 full time students and only occasional short-term courses.With no hope of finishing my existing course…my remaining six months stretched out before me as a seemingly endless string of weeks of mind-numbing boredom…After managing to abstain from heroin and other drugs for 18 months of my 2 year sentence at Mulawa, it all fell apart in my second month at Emu’s where I lost all direction and my motivation came to a grinding halt. I started using heroin again here, and with 2 weeks to go, am struggling to remain abstinate for those last weeks".
Chris, 2001

The following quotes have been taken from Blanche Hampton, Prisons and Women, 1993

“Initially when I arrived, the women tended to stand back because they didn’t know me. You have twelve women living in a confined area and somebody who’s new, who’s never been in prison, who doesn’t know about boundaries, other people’s space because everything is different from the outside. What is considered space outside is not space inside. You could have a 12-foot perimeter outside, but inside it’s 12 inches and the code of behaviour, you learn that as you go. Nobody tells you, it’s your experiences. Basically shutting up is very helpful. Stand back, don’t tell your secrets to anybody because they can use them against you".

“Many of the women in Mulawa, including myself, have come from traumatic childhoods and need to have access to proper counselling. I’m sure the government’s attitude would be ‘Why should we waste X amount of dollars on counselling all of these women’, but if the women don’t have access to it how can they be expected to change?“

“When my parents came out the morning after my arrival a Mulawa, I was given a box visit. That is where you can see your visitors behind a glass wall. You can only just hear them and you can’t touch.You’re locked in a box. “

“Certainly some officers are fair – even kind to a degree – but they are often penalised by their fellow officers and so the younger ones, if they started out sympathetic, don’t stay that way. “

I wasn’t really scared about getting out. I was upset about leaving mates behind. Once I was released I found it hard to communicate with my family, I didn’t go out much. I tended to still lock myself away from everybody. It took me a few weeks to snap out of it and then I carried on like usual but still had the memory of jail there. I have been out for over a year now and I still find it hard to adjust with everything. I can’t handle too many people around me and don’t associate with many people like I used too.

The following comments are excerpts from Women’s Voices, a survey done by Sisters Inside Inc., QLD, presented at Women in Corrections conference, November 2000.

Prison doesn’t help us women in here it makes it worse.
Try keeping the young ones out. There must be another way.
Jail is a complete waste of time. We learn nothing.
Prison sucks.
The system sucks. 
We are treated like animals not human beings. And we are treated different from the white prisoners.
Do they want you to be bad or good? It seems to me, if you do the right thing you get nothing. There are certainly a lot of false promises in this place.
Prison doesn’t stop crime, you get no help so nothing changes, makes it worse and more helpless.
No-one seems to know what they are doing over here. On the grass, off the grass, yes you can no you can’t. Bunch of Hitler’s. Mary is a Hitler.
I’m sick of the center taking away everything you enjoy –them trying to break our spirit.
We need more support for us in here and our children and families not from the prison though.
I need more support and counseling when I leave jail. I’m scared what will happen when I leave.
Jail is fucked doesn’t help anybody, we need support.
This place makes it worse.
We need more support for our children and families. 
I never had PMT until I came to prison.
Prison doesn’t help us Murri’s its just bad in here.

Compiled by Noha Ramadan for Stop the Womens Jail Anti-Prisons Resource Kit Published June 2001 by Justice Action Ph: (02) 9660-9111


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