my desk is divided in two today. On the left is a growing pile of research reports and statistics about prisons and inmates in Victoria… on the right is a collection of poetry by Rilke and Rumi, inspiring a wee idea i’ve got stirring at the moment.
Where do prisoners come from? 25 percent of the Victorian Prison population comes from just 2.1 percent of the 647 postcode areas in Victoria. These postcode areas are also the ones with some of the highest rates of child abuse and neglect, psychiatric hospital admissions and long-term unemployment [Source: Jesuit Social Services, 2003]. I’ve met men in prison who come from families where within memory, no-one has ever had a job. We’re talking 5th generation unemployment…
Rates of crime in Victoria are decreasing: The crime rate in Victoria has declined 22.4 per cent over the last five years and is the lowest in more than a decade. [source: Victorian Premier’s website]
Rates of imprisonment in Victoria are increasing: The number of prisoners in Victoria increased 60% between 30 June 1996 and 30 June 2006. [source: Department of Justice website]
Recidivism: 53 per cent of the prison population on 30 June 2006 had previously been in prison. [source: ABS]. Almost 60 percent of 17-20 year olds return to prison within 2 years of being released. 43 percent of prisoners whose initial sentence was between 6 and 12 months will return to prison. [source: Department of Justice]
And from the other side of the desk, a taste of Rilke…
Title Page [from The Voices]
It’s easy for the rich and fortunate to remain silent,
nobody wants to know who they are.
That is why the destitute must show themselves,
must say: I am blind,
or: that is what I’m about to become,
or: it’s not going very well with me here on Earth,
or: I have a sick child,
or: this is where I’m kind of all stuck together.
And perhaps even that is not enough.
Despite everything, as if they were things,
people walk right by, and so they must sing.
And one hears good music there.
Truly, people are strange; They’d
rather hear castrati in boys’ choirs.
But God himself comes and remains a long time
when these disfigured ones begin to disturb him.
Rainer Maria Rilke (tr. Cliff Crego)