In Australia, 44.8% of all prisoners released are back within those four walls within two years and the current average expenditure for taxpayers to house a prisoner is $286 per day. The question is how can prisoners break the shackles, transform themselves and go on to enjoy a fruitful and prosperous life? Is this possible? Can prisoners be successfully rehabilitated?

The answer is, I for one am not going to sit back and wonder. After spending time inside the criminal world, I began to notice the emotional trauma restricting its inhabitants from personal growth to any sort of resemblance of a happy and functioning life. Many “straighties” who take a life of privilege as a given, would not comprehend how a person continually makes bad decisions.

From what I have seen there really isn’t a choice, it’s the only way they know how. Criminals are born and raised with street smarts and they are always looking for angles and ways of getting ahead, it’s mentality ingrained in the psyche as long as they can remember. The focus is on looking after number.1 and never letting your guard down.

The scary thing is the mindset or program I am discussing can and does work for criminals, at least for a period of time. Never letting your guard down keeps the wolves at bay, but it also keeps barriers up that will not allow in any form of emotional development. Words like vulnerability or openness are treated as a disease and are clear signs of weakness. I am in control here.

This is why I believe for any criminal to break the cycle, they must go back through their whole life and make sense of all the hurt, pain and turmoil they have faced. Make no mistake about it these criminals I am talking about have been created, they are not born this way. I have spent time with violent people and when I listened to their life stories, it all stacks up.

Trevor Hendy my mentor calls it clearing emotional blockages or hooks. Moments in time that have greatly affected a human’s natural flow, these moments create fear or feelings of ineptitude. Now for a criminal that prides themselves on resilience and not showing vulnerability, these moments fester and never get addressed. So they remain dormant…... for a while.

Eventually, there will be a person or situation that triggers the individual and all this repressed emotion will explode in a moment of re-active rage. Instead of calmly working through different processes that allow a person to release emotions gradually, a criminal will engage in a moment of madness or self-medication with illicit substances to ease these strange internal feelings.

It takes a unique type of person to stand in front of 100 inmates at a correctional centre and talk about feelings, in a lot of ways I guess that person needs to be an unconventional person with an ability to think quickly on their feet, very much like a criminal. Am I capable of connecting with an audience of battle-hardened warriors, I'm not sure. But I am going to find out.

Emotional content never goes away, it has to be addressed, it has to be understood, lessons have to be learned, so the individual can move through to the NEXT CONTEST!!! Both I and an ex-inmate, now Hard Cuddles Ambassador Steven Kline have thrown our hats into the ring, we are voluntarily heading out to Hopkins Correctional Centre this Friday to facilitate a workshop.

The workshop is centred around emotional wellbeing, transformation, and rehabilitation. Understanding the strength of our pain and surrendering the ego. We will be asking some hard questions and working through some extremely challenging, dark material. It will be an exhausting and exhilarating all at once. I have spoken in front of many crowds, but this gig has me pumped.

The reason I have such a high level of enthusiasm is because I was lucky enough to get through, I wouldn't say unscathed. But I certainly didn't spend any time inside those four walls. I am eager to learn and appreciate how hard it is to do time in a correctional facility. I feel it is my duty to go back and drag as many of these blokes through to the other side as humanly possible.

The problem is offending and re-offending isn't going away, in fact, it is growing as is our population. The current model we have set up isn’t working, for me, that is a clear indication there is time for massive change. I am forever thankful to Hayley the forward-thinking transition coordinator for the opportunity to try.

Stay tuned for an update regarding the Hard Cuddles Case Study. 10 participants will be hand-selected to take up the Transformation Package: counseling (whilst inside), mentoring (on release), cv/resume, reference, job presentation workshop with our trained professional Alex and ongoing Hard Cuddles support.

When you’re on the dance floor, you gotta dance.

 Love and prosperity,

James “the hammer” Harding

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