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Hello again. I'm Geraldine Doogue.
Thank you for joining me. This episode of Prison Chaplains goes
inside Dillwynia Women's Prison, where chaplain Suzie Johnson
organises a special event for Zoe as she prepares to leave prison, while another inmate, Lesley,
needs help to cope with the impact that a prison sentence has had on her
and her family.

SUZIE JOHNSON: My faith background
has always been Christian.

I was originally doing
a Kairos program in Berrima Prison, which explains the basics
of Christianity. And while I was there, I felt the
Lord call me into prison chaplaincy.

Morning. For our Anglican system, you need a Bachelor of Theology
and a clinical pastoral education and I could only do it
one subject at a time. So, that meant a nine-year slog,
bit by bit. But I knew that that's where
the Lord was calling me. And when the position came up here, I went for interviews
and kept praying, "Is this the way, Lord?
Is that what you want?" And it was the way. And then finally got this job. So, all in all, it's been a 13-year
journey to get inside prison, and sometimes I jokingly say, "Well, you get more for murder,"
or something silly like that. But it has been worth every essay,
every piece of studying that I did.

NARRATOR: Dillwynia
is a women's prison a few kilometres from Windsor,
in Sydney's north-west.

Opened in 2004, most of the prisoners
here are a low security risk.

We're in the main part of the jail
at the moment. So, the girls are out
wandering around. And the chapel is right in
the middle of the complex here. Hi, girls. How are you? Good. How are you?
Good. Bit cold morning. Yes.
Yeah. Keep warm. I love your shoes. Yeah, Dockies. They're comfortable. Match your hair. (BOTH LAUGH)

This is home. A home with a bit of splash of pink
for the girls. It's a safe place for the girls. I try to make it comfortable
in here. And all their little things
that they've given me over the time that I've been here,
18 months, are all treasured. They come in, have a chat, and it's personal and confidential
for them. Many of these 250 women have experienced abuse
and dysfunction in their lives. Suzie is who they go to when they're
troubled or just want a chat. WOMAN: So they strip searched me.
And I was dirty about it. And they said, "Well, "if you haven't done anything wrong,
just leave it." I said, "Why should I leave it "when I'm being accused of something
I haven't done?"

Well, we are the spiritual arm
of the prison. For myself, I look after
the spiritual needs of the women. Of course, I'm a Christian chaplain but it doesn't stop me
from looking after the Muslim girls, the Buddhist girls, Hindu girls, and
I don't draw a distinction there. So that's when... Yep, that's when the Holy Spirit
first came down on the church. So, after Jesus had gone
to be with the Lord, Pentecost came. Because He said, you know,
"When you go... "When I go to be with the Father,
I'm not going to leave you alone."

When they arrive, inmates are
often struggling with addiction.

WOMAN: I started drugs
when I was 12 years of age. At 24, I met heroin and, yeah, so
I've been a poly user ever since.

I'm in jail this time for
an armed robbery that I committed and I got sentenced to five years,
with two years in.

Yeah. I've never, ever done
a robbery before, and...

..through the grace of God,
no-one got injured. And, you know,
I'm copping my penalty. And I've grown from it and I've been rehabilitated
since being in jail, so perhaps it was something
that needed to happen in order for me to change.

Designed to increase the potential
for rehabilitation, most inmates at Dillwynia
are not housed in cells, but in share accommodation,
with up to 12 women in each unit. In the house,
we have a community room, which is our dining room,
our kitchen and our lounge room, where we have a larger television where we can sit as a group
and watch television if we like.

Zoe is a regular at Suzie's services, held each Sunday
in the prison chapel, where Prison Fellowship volunteers
from local churches also help out. Anybody's invited to the service. We can pray together
as a church family. I see our chapel as a church family. Welcome, ladies, to the service. Let us start the service in prayer, and I'm going to ask Effie
from Prison Fellowship if she could lead us in this prayer. Thank you, Effie. Father God, I just pray
for these beautiful sisters of mine in this prison right now, that they will open their hearts
and their ears to receive your word. You are an awesome God. Thank you, Father, that you
are a father to many broken people. We love you, in Jesus' mighty name.

ALL: (SING) # Bless the Lord,
oh, my soul # Oh, my soul. # Suzie is a Sydney Anglican whose
evangelical brand of Christianity is based on a strict interpretation
of the Bible. But everyone is welcome
to come to the chapel, which can provide some relief from the strict routine
that governs each day.

ZOE: I find it hard that
I have no actual choice in what I'd like to do for the day,
or where I'd like to go. I have no abilities to change things
that affect me on the outside, like what's happening with my kids
or what's happening with my family. Like, as a mum, you want to be there
to support your kids through sickness or achieving
big milestones in their life, and that's difficult for me. People out there will be saying, "Well, that's what they deserve -
they're locked up." But from a chaplain point of view, I'm here in their pain of that. If there's a funeral - their mother or their father
has passed away, or their child sometimes - they can't go,
and that's horrendous. I'd like to pray for my grandmother, that she has the strength
and ability to look after my two children
while I'm in here, and... My daughter's just turned 14, and
she's going to her formal this year. So, I haven't missed it yet but
I still won't be out in time for it. And they're milestones that
I'll never be able to see back. Or, like, my youngest daughter -
she started walking. And she was five weeks old
when I come into custody and I missed her being able to walk
or hear her first words and stuff.

Built to reflect community living, the women are given
responsibilities and goals.

Back later, girls. Every inmate has an opportunity
to work. The most sought after jobs
are in Logistics. Logistics is supplying
all the supplies for the prisons
all around the state. So quite a lot of stuff comes
in here and then gets sent out. So, it's a big responsibility. Girls learn how to use forklifts, unloading trucks and stocking
and sending stuff out. Well, this is Lesley. This is one of our ladies
that works up here at Logistics, and she's going to take us around
and show us the place. Alright, here we go. Thanks, Lesley.

This is basically our warehouse. This is where everything goes. We have different aisles
for different things. As you can see up here, this is
where all our bulk stuff goes. So, it's usually stuff for textiles. We have the textiles office here. Like, we have sewing machines,
white towelling. That will go out
to make more towels. So it's basically fabric.

I've worked in a warehouse before, so this environment's
not really new to me. What I would get out of it would
hopefully be my forklift licence. I've also done Cert II
in Warehousing. So, that's something that
I will personally take away from working here in Logistics.

Lesley's job enables her
to buy extras to supplement the prison diet. We work five days a week. I get paid, I believe, $68 a week. We spend that money
mostly on our buy-ups, where you can buy your toiletries, your...whatever food
you want to eat, which is... to what's on the buy-up. So there's anything from lollies
to chips to canned beans, and it's just a range of stuff.

That's it. Thank you.
Thank you. Have a good day.
Thank you. Bye. MAN: How come a girl from Canada
ends up in a jail in Australia? (CHUCKLES)


That's a hard question.

Making the wrong choices in life.

Trusting people.

Being in love. (LAUGHS)

As soon as I was arrested,
I was going to jail. (CHUCKLES) A lot of emotion tied up there -
um...depression, scared. Coming into jail's
not a fun process, not going through induction,
not... No.

It's not a good memory.

For Zoe, the closer she gets
to her release in a few weeks' time, the more determined she is to take something positive
from her time in prison. Dillwynia's education facilities offer her the chance
to develop new skills.

My goals are
I really want to get a job. My biggest priority in my whole life
is to have my children back. That's my biggest dream. But I know that I need
to do a lot of changes and that. But perhaps the biggest change
has already taken place.

During her time in Dillwynia,
Zoe has embraced Christianity. I've seen some people become drug free and that,
and through Christ. And I see them so happy
and so full of life and determined to do
the total opposite of what they had been doing. And I thought, "I've tried
so many things, "but perhaps not tried hard enough." But I want to change. I need to change. I long to change. And I thought,
with the very quick...signs that had been shown to me
through my early investigation or growth into Christianity that this was the thing for me.

# This little light of mine,
I'm going to let it shine # This little light of mine,
I'm going to let it shine... # A few months ago, Suzie encouraged
Zoe to take part in Kairos, a Christian education course
run by volunteers. # I'm going to let it shine # This little light of mine,
I'm going to let it shine # Let it shine, let it shine,
let it shine. # It's a crash course. You're doing a journey
with the girls, and all of a sudden they get
this crash course of God's love, all in four days. And it's just amazing to sit there
and watch that unfold and God do his work
through these women.

WOMAN: Once I take up, you know,
Satan and the wrong choices and drugs and alcohol, I...
bad things happen to me. So, with God in my life... And I've only brought up God since
I've come back into...into jail. How's it been different
since I followed him? I'm whole. I feel happy. God does that to a lot of people. Brings us to our knees,
one way or another. And before that,
I knew how strong all that was, so I kept away from all that. That was the first bit of sin
that slipped back into my life. ZOE: The Kairos journey
really had an impact on me. A lady there shared her testimony,
and it was about choice and timing. And I've always wanted
to become very close to Christ, and I've always been hesitant because I've,
I want to do it at the right time. I want to understand,
I want to be fully committed. I don't want to be
one of these half-hearted people. But by her testimony, it said,
"Tomorrow might be too late. "The next minute might be too late. "If you have that desire,
go with it." And that was when I really decided I don't need to understand this
to believe. I can believe. # I want to see you. #

While Zoe immerses herself
in her new-found faith, Lesley has more prosaic reasons
for coming to the chapel.

LESLEY: No, I don't think
I'll be that kind of person, pumping the air. I don't like to stand out. I go to church on Sunday
for the atmosphere. It's just different in there. You know, you can walk in
through the doors and not feel the bad energy
that goes along in jail.

In the name of the Father,
Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. Let's go.

I don't judge any of them
for their crime. We have a system that
I don't look up. I don't need to know their crime. I need to know who they are now and how I can love them
in Christ now.

The girls have, most of the time, no-one in here that
they can download and trust. As they come in, they realise
that, you know, Suzie the chaplain is the safe person, the godly
person, and they can rest in you. They use that safe place for them.
And I keep that to myself.

It's a big load for Suzie to carry. But she does have one place
in the prison complex where she can enjoy some quiet time. Hi, Jennie. Hi, Irene. How are you? You good?
Have a nice day. You too. Hey, girls!

WOMAN: Hi, Suzie!
How are you? We're fine, thank you.
We'll get you a coffee. Don't worry.
Beauty. Beauty. So you've been making some cushions? Yes, yes. There are... This is
the latest one, with the heart. Ooh! I love the pink in it, of course.

Where my office is,
right in the middle of the yard, and I constantly have women
coming in and out. And I come up here
and it's a time out, really. I come up at lunch time and these ladies look after me
like mums and get me a cuppa
and something to eat. So they have a ministry to me
that I really appreciate amazingly.

I was a bit wild growing up - drugs, alcohol, sneaking away
from home, party animal. So I understand the depths
of some of their despair that they go through, and that has helped
with the ministry, knowing, and be able
to have empathy for them because of the life
that you've lived.

Here she comes! Ooh, who's that? I've got a beautiful family, but I try not to talk about too much
other than the joys of the day. But nothing personal
is discussed with the family.

My dog is a white Maltese
cross shih tzu, and if she could talk,
I'd have to probably shoot her. (LAUGHS) I unfold a lot of things
and that's a good de-stress. Some of the girls were upset today
because they lost people. And we've got to pray for them.

Zoe... With Zoe's release imminent, Suzie is anxious that she doesn't
fall back into old habits. Putting her in touch with a suitable
church is the first step. What do you like? I like... I like the Dillwynia Chapel. (CHUCKLES) God love you. So I would like, maybe,
the same kind of theme as Hillsong, a Pentecostal type church. Yep, so a Pentecostal.
Yeah. OK. Put that in me bag, Zoe, and... Yes. And I'll finish off
our coffees. We'll get coffee. But a problem emerges. Zoe tells Suzie she wants to go back
to where she lived before, where drugs were easily obtained. Zoe, is this going to be
a safe place? Well, I don't have
anywhere else to go. How long can you stay there
and then get out, if you're in a house
with somebody on dope? So, I want you out of there
soon as possible.

Just for the temptation.

You know, it's like putting a kid
in a candy store and saying, "The lollies are there,
but don't have any." They were saying about going
into those halfway houses and that. Well, that's just as bad. They're full of addicts, dealers.
No. So, I need you in a place. Like, you've got the church
around you, but I want your home place
to be a safe place as well. But I want to pray about it.
Can we pray? Yep, yep. Oh, heavenly Father,
I want to thank you for the journey that
you're having Zoe on, and her growth in you
and her trust in you and her desire to grow more in you and to find a church family
to support her. And that she's open-armed and ready to accept this family
that's going to love her. So, Lord, we pray this now and
we leave it at the Cross with you. In your Son's precious name... While Zoe plans for life
on the outside, Lesley's release date
is still two years away. LESLEY: At the end of the day,
all you want to do is go home. So, if you're constantly
thinking about, oh, you know, how hard is it going to be
or what you're going to do, you're just going to be depressed
all the time.

I think the hardest thing for me
was being away from my family.

For me, I'm separated not just
by the fences that fence us in here, I'm separated by distance. I'm separated by an ocean.

Just because we're in jail doesn't mean stuff doesn't happen
for us on the outside involving our families, and...

SUZIE: Yeah, yeah.

You OK?

Sorry. (CHUCKLES) Well, that's natural.

Yeah. It can be hard.
Yeah. Yep. I've got your back.
I've got your back. Suzie helps us
because she helps us grieve. She helps us get through it. She sits there with us
and talks to us.

And just...lets us cry. (LAUGHS) So... It's something you need here.

And you know you can go to Suzie
and tell her anything and she won't say...
she won't say it. It won't go past her.

Suzie's deep connection to the women
in her care is borne out of mutual trust
and respect.

Today's baptism is
a very public acknowledgement from one inmate about
the power of Suzie's faith to influence change in her life.

Well, welcome everybody. What a special day for Zoe. A beautiful day, Zoe. A chance to actually stand up
and confess your faith in the Lord. It is a joy to see you
turn from your old life. ZOE: I've had so many signs
that there is a God. And He has acted within me. And I feel the change in my heart,
my mind. People can't see the change
in my heart, but they can see it by the symbolic
action of being baptised. I'm going to put this cloak
over you as well. And it's a symbol and represents what Christ
does for us in His death. And when we accept Him
as our Lord and Saviour, He takes away our sins
and He paints us as white as snow. Zoe, I baptise you in the name
of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Amen. And, Zoe, I sign you with the Cross
so that you will remember that you are marked now
as Christ's own, forever.

# Christ is enough for me # Christ is enough for me. # I'm hoping that when I get out,
I will find a church and perhaps I can put something
back into the community. But when you walk through the gates, it's always scary that you're
going to stumble and fall, or that you're going to make
the same mistakes, or you get caught up
in the fast life.

I see a lot of girls
come and go in here. And it's tough for them
when they get out. Very hard. But Zoe, she has the Lord
with her now. She has the Holy Spirit inside her
to guide her. And I just pray that in the future
she stays connected to the church, connected to Christ the Vine, because that's going to be
her strength out there. Zoe, go ahead
and fight the good fight. Amen.
Amen. Congratulations.

Captions by Ericsson Access Services Copyright
Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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