Loddon Prison excursion – Unit 3 Legal Studies

The Unit 3 Legal Studies class recently took an excursion to visit the Loddon prison as part of their studies; Ms Emily McMahon and her students have put together the below reflection about the day.

The Loddon Prison includes both Loddon Prison and Middleton and is located in Central Victoria, approximately 2km from the township of Castlemaine. Middleton is a restricted-minimum rated men’s prison that opened in July 2014. Prisoners at Middleton live in self-catered, cottage-style accommodation where they are responsible for cooking their own meals.

We met seven prisoners; their crimes included culpable driving, dangerous driving, tax fraud, insurance fraud, serious assault, armed robbery and murder.

We moved into small circles and were able to sit with each prisoner in a more confidential setting where students were able to ask more probing questions. These questions included “describe your upbringing and family circumstances”, “what were the main factors in contributing to your criminal history?”, “what is the worst thing about prison?”, “what is your view on whether prison rehabilitates the prisoner?”, “describe the court process and do you believe you received a fair trial?”, “do you blame the judge for your sentence?”, “do you believe you could have been found not guilty if you had more money?” and “what do you really think about the prison guards?” We received a lot of very interesting answers!

Student’s reflection:

I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to talk to people in the criminal system, even though it was confronting speaking to people who spoke so easily about their crimes. I can see why they would lie to visitors if they had to confess over and over again to different people. Seeing people like CJ who had another prisoner as a mentor made me question the legitimacy of mental health care in prisons. Seeing how monotonous prison life is, it can’t be good for a sane person, let alone someone struggling with their own issues. The amount of people we heard about with drug addictions in prison was crazy! Still, it was interesting hearing about how people’s lives were impacted by the legal system.
– Sabrina

 I thought the excursion today was interesting and insightful. Hearing the prisoners’ stories and experiences gave me more knowledge about their sides of their stories and how parts of their life prior to being found guilty of convicting an offence may have impacted them. I learnt about what life would be like in prison and found it interesting to know what they personally thought about our justice system. Overall, I really enjoyed it and thought I benefitted quite a bit from the day.
– Miriam  

The prison excursion allowed us as 3/4 students to gain a deeper understanding of the personal side of the court system. As legal studies students, we study cases and discuss these legal concepts but to see how they actually work in the real world and the people that the legal system impacts was very interesting. I heard many fascinating things throughout the day and was able to broaden my perspective on whether prison is effective at deterring crimes or punishing the prisoners. I feel I got a lot out of the day and will be able to relate it to what I’m learning in legal studies now and into the future.
– Sophie

Our excursion to the Loddon Prison was an unparalleled experience which was a different insight into our legal system. Here we were shown the side of justice that our textbooks don’t illustrate for us. It was amazing to see how cooperative the prisoners were and how willing they were to share their personal stories. My biggest surprise was their views on how prison influences a person. All seven of the ‘clients’ recounted how they see the same people being released and being reincarnated. They said that prison is not as the government describes; it does not rehabilitate people, it exposes them to a world where they become dependent, and get released knowing nothing other than that. One ‘client’ attempted to justify this by explaining that prison forces convicts to take part in rehabilitation workshops and programs, and if these were offered at the choice of inmates, they would be more inclined to make an effort to turn around their lives and give back to the community.
– Tim

I found the experience overall to be very interesting and eye opening. I was surprised by the range of different prisoners we met and also by the fact that people who had committed such a wide range of offences all lived within the same space. It also dispelled many preconceptions about prisoners as they all seemed to be very affable and polite. Overall, it was a very rewarding experience and an enjoyable day.
– William

Prison was eventful; it was great to learn new experiences and to be able to quiz the prisoners about their back stories and lives before and during prison. It was really interesting to find out about their living conditions and facilities. Although confronting, it was really beneficial to discover the truth about what actually happens in prison and the lives they lead inside.
– Bells

I thought that the prison environment was quite relaxed, I thought there would be more security. I felt after meeting Eric (one of the prisoners) that he made a legitimate point about how there might be better ways for rehabilitation. I thought it was odd that people who may have only committed tax fraud could end up in the same prison as a serial killer.
– Johnny

I thought our excursion to the prison was really worthwhile. Speaking to the prisoners showed us how a single decision can impact your entire life. It was also interesting to learn about how certain factors such as early life experiences and drugs, can impact the likelihood of someone offending. Prisoners seemed to have differing opinions on the effectiveness of the legal system and it was confronting hearing about the violence in prison. I felt sympathy for the prisoners as we were speaking to them however, upon reflection it’s interesting to see how the prisoners twisted their stories to paint themselves in a better light.
– Meg

I really enjoyed the excursion today; I thought it was really interesting today to talk to actual prisoners and get their opinion of the justice systems and the prison system. It was really enlightening to talk to these people and hear their stories and get their side of the story. But it was also really interesting to be able to talk about their stories afterwards and talk about all the holes in their stories and anything that didn’t add up. Overall, it was an awesome day.
– Abigail

I thought the excursion was really great and eye opening. I really found listening to the prisoners stories super interesting and confronting. Coming out of it, I think I’m going to start thinking twice about decision making in my life, as you can commit a crime in a split second and end up in jail.
– Steph

I very much enjoyed the day today at Middleton Prison. I expected the facilities to be quite old and run down, on arrival I saw that this wasn’t the case and facilities were fairly new and very well maintained. I was quite nervous about being in a room with prisoners who had been deemed a threat to our society. As soon as the men entered though, I realised that they were not as scary as I imagined and I enjoyed hearing their stories. This prison visit changed all my prior view towards the prison system and prisoners, which I would have never otherwise learnt!
– Catherine

The Loddon Prison trip was a really rewarding experience that, among other things, really allowed me to realise how a few moments of misfortune can essentially land you in prison and with a criminal record that will severely hurt your future life beyond prison. Prison, for me, was surprising as it was both better than I had expected while also being worse than I had expected. The facilities and opportunities provided in the particular branch we visited at Loddon were a lot better than I had anticipated. Going into the trip, I thought that the aspect of prison politics and gangs was more of an American movie concept, but I was surprised to hear that even a selection of words could get you seriously hurt.
– Jack


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