by Dr Lukas Carey
Dr Lukas Carey completed his Doctorate in education and has worked in the field for most of his career as a coach, teacher, trainer and educator. While filling a role in local government he was charged with and convicted of receiving secret commissions and served time in prison.
During and since Lukas’ incarceration, he developed a strong interest in the role that previously incarcerated people have in the development of policy and procedure in the justice system concerned with education and post-release employment. He is a strong advocate for the importance of Convict Criminology and lived experience to govern the direction of these policies and practices.
Lukas has a very unique story to tell about his experience of Christmas in Jail. Full of surprises and some really sound advice.
OWN IT, DON’T LET IT OWN YOU!
by Dr Lukas Carey
So lets not bullshit here – being away for Christmas can suck, especially if you are locked up. I did it, spending Christmas over 4000km away from my small kids and wont lie it really hurt inside. Not seeing them, playing with them and doing the whole Santa thing stay with me today. After a brief discussion around the phones in the days before Christmas a few of us decided we would make it Christmas day the best day it possibly could be considering where we were and where our families were.
The three guys chatting about Christmas day were three dads that were on or near the phones the same time every night to talk to our children. We engaged each other one night talking about how shit Christmas would be and how we could support each other and try and make things better. We all noted we would be calling our kids and family on Christmas morning, needed time after that to process but wanted to do something that took our minds and hearts away from the pain that was sure to ensue. The three of us made our calls on the day dealing with tears, anger, bitterness and embarrassment. This call and the storm of emotions was by far that was the most difficult thing to do on the day but also set the baseline that whatever we did for the remainder of the day HAD to be better than that feeling.
I don’t want to sound like a knob when I write this as I get it, felt it and experienced it, but after some solid planning, word of mouth and help from the sport and recreation staff the three dads organised to try and replicate one of the things synonymous with many Australian festive seasons – a game of cricket.
The sport and rec staff gave us a couple of sets of pads a few bats, balls, stumps and helmets. We spoke to the grounds guys (inmates making their $3.50 per day doing what they were told) and they mowed the sports ground lower than normal with their hand mowers (as they weren’t allowed to use the ride on in case they escaped!). The guys chipped in to buy the two grounds guys a packet of ice creams and a slab of coke as a thankyou for the arduous task they completed in 40-degree heat.
The three dads worked in different industries in the jail and had different social circles through recreation pursuits such as gym, cards, board games or study groups. For the weeks before Christmas strong recruitment took place to get two teams together that were keen to try and do anything possible to make Christmas day as best as it could be and more importantly be competitive so you didn’t lose!! There was a wide range of wagers laid, increasing the fun and taking our minds away from being away from the loved ones we were missing.
To the surprise of the 22 guys recruited to play, there was a crowd of over 50 other inmates, officers and staff who came to watch the game and take their own minds off the pain that being in that place at that time bought to their minds. The jovial nature of the day on and off the pitch between and inmates and staff was truly a break in the difficulty of time inside and for a single day the pain of being away from loved ones became the driver to do something meaningful for each other.
The game was played in great spirits and was a day full of fun, laughter, competitiveness and also mixed abilities. Every person played the game in the best nature it was designed for and thanked the three Dad’s afterwards for putting it together with the words ‘that’s what we needed’, ‘took my mind away from here for a while’ and ‘it felt like playing with my mates again’, being heard more than once after the event, in muster lines and during meal times.
As I said already, I get the day is shit without family, but take the chance to maybe do something in there that you haven’t done before or even have done before but haven’t done forever, try cricket or football, even try board games or other games, but make sure the reason for the game is outlined clearly for everyone involved from the start and that it is for people to take their minds away from the shit feeling of missing family. Although only a few hours of fun, I know it took our minds away and hid the emotions for a short time taking many of us back to our school and junior sport days where fun and playing with ‘mates’ won out, taking our minds away from the reality we faced every minute of every day inside. Give it a try and own the narrative to your Christmas day, don’t let it and the emotions attached to it own you.