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Shawshank Redemption stories occur in our prisons


Shawshank Redemption stories occur in our prisons too !

“10,000 Kiwis have just rated ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ as their top film of all time, but how is this compatible with our societal approach to imprisonment”, wonders Robin Gunston, National Director of Prison Fellowship, “it seems we want to live in the alternate reality of such a film rather than confront our real world issues”

“Maybe its because this is a very human story” he says “which lifts one man from the darkness of his destiny, amidst the brutality and hopelessness of the prison system, to a place where he is redeemed through his efforts and schemes to go back into society, despite all the prison system did to discourage him.”
“What keeps him going is Hope, the thought that one day he can be free, but whether he is rehabilitated is another question as the dialogue around his parole shows:

1967 Parole Hearings Man: Ellis Boyd Redding, your files say you've served 40 years of a life sentence. Do you feel you've been rehabilitated?
Red: Rehabilitated? Well, now let me see. You know, I don't have any idea what that means.

1967 Parole Hearings Man: Well, it means that you're ready to rejoin society...
Red: I know what *you* think it means, sonny. To me it's just a made up word. A politician's word, so young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie, and have a job. What do you really want to know? Am I sorry for what I did?
1967 Parole Hearings Man: Well, are you?

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Red: There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I'm in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone and this old man is all that's left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It's just a bullshit word

In this week we have had several presentation on TV and in a Victoria University Symposium where the statement was made by prison experts like Professors Andrew Coyle, John Pratt and others that “prison is not a place that rehabilitates anyone”, something the writers of Shawshank inherently knew many years ago.

“Our role in Prison Fellowship” says Mr Gunston, “is to offer that same Hope to youth, men and women that come to that honest point of realising it’s the only thing that will help them become full citizens once again, as it did in this great movie. We have men with horrific backgrounds, who have committed dire crimes that now, with hope in their lives, are fully restored within their communities, and in many cases are preventing others embarking on a life of crime.”

“As citizens and authorities come to slowly realise the folly of continuing to lock so many people away, alternative effective, community-led programmes for offenders will have to become the norm, and restorative justice principles employed extensively across our criminal justice system to bring down the barriers, often media created, between offenders and victims. Prison Fellowship’s long term plans and programmes will see us helping more and more communities to become properly equipped to lead key initiatives like Target Communities, where community groups take the responsibility for caring for a prisoner on release so that they won’t ever go back to jail”

“If Kiwis really like The Shawshank Redemption that much, then they need to apply the reality of its principles and support those who need Hope to break the back of their imprisonment and previous ways of life. Prison Fellowship has plenty of ways that civic minded Kiwis can get involved in real life transformation that will make an enormous difference to our Kiwi way of life and in time reduce the growing tax burden of providing high cost imprisonment for so many people”.


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