Prison preachers

open doorsBook | Opening the Doors: A Prison Chaplain’s Life On The Inside | Paul Gill

Review by GARY DAVIDSON

Author Paul Gill served as senior prison chaplain and coordinating chaplain at Western Australia’s Casuarina Prison for 10 years before his retirement. This 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, and provides 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 per cent 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.

Gill describes approaches to justice, including punitive, rehabilitative and restorative justice. He acknowledges that rehabilitative and restorative justice programs 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 is beautifully produced, colourful and easy to read.

Gary Davidson is the prison ministry coordinator in Western Australia

Make Your Mark Publications, RRP $24.95

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