LINE up, face against the wall, screaming, phone and keys taken, fingerprinting and unfamiliar corridors leading to an unknown fate.
The welcoming committee at the Old Mount Gambier Gaol were far from friendly when they locked up 35 members of the South East community for Friday night’s Whitelion Bail Out fundraiser.
Millicent’s Jade McGrath and staff from the Millicent Community Learning Centre were among those given orange overalls before they were ridiculed by guards and marched to an overcrowded cell where they were to sit and wait.
Ms McGrath said after half an hour, the inmates were given soup and taken to the courtyard where a “screw” shared his story as a survivor.
“He was a 62-year-old man named Steve who was made a ward of the state when he was 12,” she said.
“He went on to have a 25-year drug addiction and spent 16 years in jail over a 20 year period.
“He was a realist and spoke the truth, discussing his bad choices, his love for his mum, what could have helped him stay out and the challenging low points in his life.
“I cried because I could relate to his story with youth I have personally worked with, as well as people close to me throughout my life.”
As well as Steve’s story, the group heard true stories of others including a woman who served a sentence in a juvenile detention facility.
Ms McGrath said the whole experience reassured her she was working in the correct profession.
“Since giving myself a somewhat challenging youth I have always known I wanted to try and make a difference to those in need, no matter how big or small,” she said.
“I found handing over my possessions and having no freedom or control very confronting.
“The hardest thing for me was no phone and knowing I could not call my husband, kids or family whenever I wanted scared me.
“I felt helpless and somewhat alone and can only imagine how youth or any person in prison feels.
“The whole experience confirmed I will stay in this profession to help any way I can and I would love to do more, I am just pondering on what that may be.”
The group participating in the Whitelion Bail Out charity in Mount Gambier raised over $25,000, which will be invested straight back into supporting the region’s at risk youth.