James Brown knows everyone in prison. His confidence comes from a place where weakness wasn’t an option. Years behind bars has hardened him. He knows the prison culture. He’s watched gangs grow in prison. But most importantly, he knows you can’t get much help in there.
James was first sentenced to prison aged 37 for violence. Now 52, he has been in and out of prison 14 times. But is determined not to go back.
John* (49), another re-offender is less confident and still struggles to speak of the crime he committed when he was 18, his voice becoming quieter, as the guilt still weighs heavy on his shoulders. He talks of a fight outside a bar all those years ago that turned fatal.
He was first sentenced to life 30 years ago, for manslaughter, and went on parole in 2001. But since then he had been re-called back inside seven times.
These are two completely different stories and while never crossing paths when doing time, they do have one thing in common now.
Salisbury St Foundation, located in the heart of Merivale, is a residential centre that supports prisoners to reintegrate into society. It is the only one like it in New Zealand, and there is a need for more.