May 23, 2019 by Jonelle Kapsalos

The new DRUMBEAT for Adult Justice Program creates a unique space for prisoners to learn vital social and emotional skills. The program explores values and relationships, within a framework of self-responsibility and self-reflection. For many, this is the first time they have discussed such topics. It can be raw, confronting and liberating all at once.

Acacia Prison and Wooroloo Prison Farm recently participated in the new Adult Justice pilot program. Facilitator Ev shares her experience, “At the first session the prisoners were nervous and unsure of us. I was a bit apprehensive as a woman coming into a male prison. But as a facilitator you enter the group automatically giving and treating everyone with respect. This group immediately reciprocated this given respect, and this created a healthy environment for sharing, reflecting, drumming and ultimately for change. The program strips away all the layers that are really barriers for the group. Such as ‘I’m just a prisoner’, ‘a number’. Together we create a new environment, and this is the conduit for change.”

The Adult Justice program has two additional sessions that focus on developing skills for maintaining relationships. The workbook is a key element and covers topics in the course. It also provides worksheets for self-reflection outside of the allocated program time.

The final group performance is an integral element in bringing the group together. Facilitator Geoff describes the process,

“As we see so many times in groups, the first time we mentioned that there will be a performance, the group went straight into ‘flight mode’. However, as the group travels through the process, very tight bonds were formed, drumming skills were honed and the final showcase was quite remarkable with many solos and a tribal dance!”

Feedback from the group showed significant positive change across a range of social and psychological measures. Facilitator Ev, explains, “The whole group experienced quite profound change. There was one person who first came in very apprehensive, reluctant to make eye contact, and didn’t want to speak. By the end, he ended up leading the performance with the dun drum! His personal transformation was quite remarkable. The notable difference in his confidence shone out and he talked about making future plans, improving his interpersonal relationships and most importantly the relationship with himself. He was so proud, and the group was so proud of him!”

Holyoake is actively seeking funding to continue running the program on an ongoing basis. Once this funding is secured, the prisons plan to run the program as part of ongoing voluntary drug and alcohol programs. For further information, click here.