Archive for the ‘prison chaplain’ Category

Celia Lashlie

March 17, 2010

Celia is a New Zealand author and past prison governor. She has two books, one about who goes to prison and one about raising boys.

Today I attended a forum with her as the speaker. The morning session was taken up with stories from her prison days. The afternoon session taken up with stories from her days working with boys in high school, trying to figure out the difference between a boy and a man.

Somewhere in among it all we sat in table groups and spoke about how her stories had something to say to our own work.  Those attending came from a diverse background. On my table was a prison chaplain (me), a Housing NSW community officer, a Catholic Care worker, three people from local Juvenile Justice offices, and one refugee settlement officer. Elsewhere there were private counselors, TAFE counselors, High School teachers, Drug and Alcohol workers, all sorts of people working with boys and men in trouble.

The whole day was extraordinary. I came away with one of Celia’s books (swapped for a copy of one of mine) and a whole lot of thinking to do about how men and boys communicate with each other and the outside world.

If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, take it. She is a wonderfully warm personality with a great love of story telling, and a wealth of experience in understanding people.

Find her here

A Day with the Coppers

November 17, 2009

I spent today in the local Police Station.

One of my clients rang me this morning. He either had to hand himself in or wait until somebody came to arrest him. He decided to hand himself in. So I picked him up and took him to the station. We spent the rest of the day in the charge room. And in the afternoon as I went to my next client, he went to the court cells to wait for his bail hearing tomorrow.

It’s not everybody’s idea of a day well spent. But being a prison chaplain means I spend my days differently from most. This client has paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and personality disorder. He’s a difficult person to deal with sometimes, such as when he is not taking his meds, which is most of the time.

His life is like a centre of gravity that draws everything towards it. It draws the heavy things faster, and they do greater damage. This means that while most people live lives that are somehow “normal”, this man lives his life with heavy things coming at him pretty often. Tomorrow he will probably get another lagging. That’s a heavy thing.

My presence in the place made a difference for him and for the officers. I was able to keep him calm, and the officers were able to get their work done calmly. It was not like that the last time. He spent the time shouting at the officers and punching the perspex cell door and raging around the tiny cell in the charge room. Today they didn’t have to lock the cell door, it stayed wide open and we both sat there talking. As long as there is somebody to listen to him he can manage the turbo-charged thoughts in his mind. It’s not a task that I would be able to take on for more than a few hours at a time.

I worked with him through a crisis some months ago. Back then I managed to get him back on his medication and his life started to settle down after a few days. He didn’t end up in the police station that time. This time he hadn’t paid the gravity bill and everything came rushing at him faster than he could manage. I spoke with my assistant about him this afternoon. We recognised that perhaps being in custody is the only way that he will get medication at the moment. That’s a heavy trip in my opinion.

We sometimes like being the centre of attention. But it is a very different story being the centre of gravity.