The author, Paul Gill, is no stranger to the Perth Diocese, having served as Senior Prison Chaplain and Coordinating Chaplain at Casuarina Prison for ten years before his retirement. The book emanates from his vast experience working in a prison environment in WA. It is raw and real, confronting and challenging, brutally honest tinged with touches of humour, providing the reader with a valuable insight into a prisoner’s life behind the razor-wire.
The book stresses the need to get on top of crime by addressing three important issues: mental health, poverty and the illegal drugs trade. Around 70% of prisoners are ‘inside’ for importing, exporting, manufacturing, trafficking, possessing or using drugs. The author notes that a disproportionate number of prisoners come from the poorer classes where lack of education, job skills and social skills are huge contributing factors to poor life choices.
Paul Gill describes approaches to justice, including punitive, rehabilitative and restorative justice. He acknowledges that rehabilitative and restorative justice programmes are forward-thinking and of immense value. The Sycamore Tree Project, under the auspices of Prison Fellowship, is specifically mentioned and recommended, as it both provides prisoners with an opportunity to change patterns of behaviour and enables victims of crime to move forward and experience a sense of freedom.
The author, in recognition of the importance of chaplains within the prison environment, describes their role as pastors, prophets and preachers. Longevity of service is essential in the formation of relationships with both staff and prisoners coupled with confidence in the Gospel that is proclaimed. Chaplains provide hope to prisoners who otherwise have no hope either in this world or the next.
The book, published by Make Your Mark Publications, is beautifully produced, colourful and easy to read.
The Reverend Graham Wright, Senior Prison Chaplain for the Anglican Diocese of Perth