2 October 2012
A chance to speak freely and openly in a non-judgemental environment was how one prison inmate described the grief programme, Seasons for Growth.
The programme started in prison in 2009 with Mary Boyle and Esther Saldanha accompanying in their grief the first group of men who were in the high medium unit at Rimutaka Prison.
The following year the pair worked with seven more in the alcohol and drug prevention unit and in 2011 two groups of five each were accompanied in two segregation units.
Word spread about Seasons for Growth and soon the men in prison were asking for the programme to be held in different units, which attracted the chaplains’ attention.
‘Seasons for Growth helped me cope with my grief,’ said one while another said, ‘I found sharing with others helped build my trust and respect’, and another, ‘I learned how to share a difficult problem and this made me feel lighter’.
In 2011 one prison chaplain and later three more, Alison Robinson, Martin Robinson, Robyn McLay, Wayne Kirkland and Br Doug Dawick were trained to accompany the men through the programme. With more chaplains trained the programme is able to run simultaneously in at least three units as well as in other high and medium security units.
By the end of September 2012, 61 men had been through the programme and seven companions had been trained.
One man said he thought the programme should be a part of the ‘prison initiation programme’. Others said the sharing helped relieve stress, taught them how to handle emotion, and how to deal with pain and loss, particularly concerning family.
‘This programme needs to be run in prison more often,’ they said.