A little understanding goes a long way.
When I came back to jail, I was lost, angry, disappointed, frustrated. I was placed in the Youth Unit and one of the mentor prisoners introduced himself. He asked if I was okay, did I need anything. It was good to have someone acknowledge I was doing it hard. He even organised a toothbrush for me.
I wanted to be that guy.
In the Youth Unit I started some educational programs, like anger management and communication skills. I got a sense there was more to life than crime. That it was time to grow up. After a few months, I applied to become a mentor myself.
From rock bottom, you can still reach the top.
I signed up for the Small Business Program and was voted in as Managing Director. It was a great confidence boost, to have your peers believe in you. It was scary, too. I hadn’t done anything like that before.
Listening will take you far.
It’s the most important skill in business. It gives you the upper hand. In making a deal, you listen to the other party and take on board all their requirements. Then you can work out how to meet those requirements in a way that also benefits you. In our business, everyone has a say. I always throw in my opinion, but I take feedback from all the other prisoners in the business, our mentors, prison management, our suppliers, our customers, all our stakeholders.
Business can be cruel.
Our first business was called Hard Yards and we wanted to trade mark the name. Someone already had the rights, but wasn’t actually using the name. We explained who we were and tried to make a deal. The guy wanted $2.5 million. We moved on and resolved to make Doin’ Time even better than Hard Yards.
You have to walk in their shoes.
You can’t be an effective mentor unless you have been there, done that. When I get out, I’d like to help troubled youth in the community.
I have had some great training, from my own experience as well as from the support network in prison – my development officer, Anne, psychologists, drug and alcohol counsellors.
It feels good to give back.
We raised $27,000 and bought a new neo-natal heart monitor for the Royal Children’s Hospital. It was my biggest achievement in life. All our hard work paid off.
Doin’ Time is a small business run by inmates at the Penhyn Youth Unit of Victoria’s Port Phillip Prison. Participants develop their personal skills, reduce their risk of re-offending and give back to the community by donating profits to selected charities. So far, $36,000 has been raised printing and selling branded T-shirts. The program is supported by Toll, Pilotlight, Gaz Man, Bonds, Stereo 97.4, GSL and Right Click. www.servingtime.org