Tony has been out of prison for about six years. He talks about his life growing up in a good home and how he chose to take a different path into property crime.
At that time, he was Ted Bull.
He talks about how committing crime for him was like an addiction and gave him an adrenalin rush and so he just wanted more. Once he’d committed the first offence the rush continued for about 30 years.
He speaks of his first time entering prison in Queensland and how terrifying it was for him. He spoke with the prison barber who told him to ‘keep his mouth shut, mind his own business, and get on with his day’ and so he tried to just do that on a daily basis. He said in prison you have to stand up for himself and be strong otherwise you’re open to vulnerabilities.
He talks about how prison takes away the independence of those who are contained within its walls and institutionalises them.
It was the prison Spartans Debating Club that was able to change everything for Tony. He also wrote so much poetry, which helped him through as it allowed him to express himself emotionally, which is impossible to do in prison. He notes that poetry is ‘a magical form of expression and is sometimes the only form of expression’. It helped him deal with the solitary confines of a cell that he was in for about 18 hours a day.
He talks about the New Beginnings parenting program and why it worked so well. It allowed the fathers to build the program and create a day with their children where there was lots of interaction and activities between fathers and children.
He believes that for young men who might have that same impulse or drive to get the rush from committing crime it’s about being able to find the connections they have with what they love doing that is not related to crime.
We also talk a lot about identity and how important it is for those exiting the prison. He notes the change in identity that he’s had to alter from his ‘criminal’ identity to the identity he now has in the community. He has had to work on that in order to change. He believes he was saved by a fishing boat and spent three years out on the water which resulted in him changing. If he wasn’t able to escape and be out on the ocean he wouldn’t have been able to change. It was the easiest place in the world to recreate. He also talks about how important it is to be with the community that accepts you and believes in you. He says that they no longer see him as the person he used to be and therefore he doesn’t see himself as the person he used to be.
He said in order to stop crime you need to be able to replace it with something different. That means you need to help people to be and do something else and give them the opportunity to have something different.
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