National Network strongly rejects the recent initiative by Corrections Victoria to employ people with lived experience of incarceration as staff within the corrections system.

‘The initiative, which is being touted by some, as a signal of hope and a road to redemption for formerly incarcerated people, is not the emancipation that most people who have been to prison are seeking,’ said Debbie Kilroy. ‘It fundamentally misunderstands the nature of true liberation and continues to perpetuate the cycle of carceral oppression that we are dedicated to dismantling – it literally turns the prisoner into the screw. Our work is about liberation, not oppression,’ said Debbie Kilroy.

‘As a National Network, we firmly believe that people who have been locked in cages should not be locking other people in cages, because absolutely no one should be locked in cages, full stop.,’ said Tabitha Lean. ‘This initiative wrongly assumes that having been in prison somehow makes someone better suited to the role of a prison warden. But a prison warden is a prison warden is a prison warden, regardless of their past experiences,’ said Tabitha Lean.

‘Employing former prisoners within the corrections system to serve as wardens, guards or even policy advisors does not address the mass incarceration crisis, nor the systemic injustices,’ said Tabitha Lean. ‘It merely places former prisoners in positions where they must enforce the very system that once oppressed them. This is not a step towards change or liberation; it is a perpetuation of the same cycle of control and punishment,’ said Tabitha Lean.

‘Other prisoners are not our enemy; the state and its oppressive structures are. True emancipation involves dismantling these structures and building a society that does not rely on cages to address social issues,’ said Debbie Kilroy. ‘It means investing in community-based solutions, transformative justice, and support systems that genuinely support people to live happy, safe and well lives in our communities,’ said Debbie Kilroy.

The National Network call on the Victorian Government to refocus their efforts on policies and initiatives that promote real liberation. This includes providing comprehensive support for people on release from prison, creating opportunities for genuine reintegration, housing, health care, and ultimately working towards a system where no one is locked in cages.

For further comment, please contact Debbie Kilroy on 0419 762 474 or Tabitha Lean on 0499 780 226.