Prison-based parkruns kick off in Australia
Building on the success of prison-based parkruns in the UK and Ireland, Australian prisoners will take part in weekly events for the first time from this Saturday.
HM Prison Dhurringile in central Victoria – a minimum-security facility and working farm covering more than 400 acres with around 330 male detainees – will become the first correctional facility in the southern hemisphere to host a parkrun.
Dhurringile parkrun will take place within the confines of the prison perimeter each Saturday morning and be closed to the general public, with inmates and staff involved as walkers, runners and volunteer organisers. A second prison-based parkrun is scheduled to kick off next weekend (April 27) at South Australia’s Mobilong prison.
If the events prove successful the initiative could be rolled out to other facilities across Australia from as early as July.
While prisoners currently have access to sporting and exercise opportunities, parkrun brings the added benefit of promoting personal development through volunteering. This includes event management, public speaking, interpersonal communication and team building, providing prisoners with pathways into education and training and valuable skills for when they are reintegrated into society.
Glen Turner, parkrun Australia’s Health and Wellbeing Lead, said while rehabilitation programs can be complex and there’s no “silver bullet that can prevent re-offending” parkrun’s “inherent nature of incorporating physical activity, volunteering, education and skill development” can help.
“The beauty of this initiative is that it is eminently scalable and we have really been buoyed by the enthusiasm to introduce prison parkruns here,” he says.
The prisoners themselves will help to deliver parkrun every week, providing a sense of responsibility, ownership and belonging.
Turner’s sentiments are echoed by Dhurringile Prison General Manager Colin Thompson.
“parkrun is a great opportunity to promote physical activity and volunteering opportunities for prisoners and staff. Sport and recreation play an important role in improving the physical and mental health of prisoners, helping to prepare them for being released back into the community at the end of their sentence.”
parkruns commenced in UK and Ireland prisons in 2017 and now take place weekly in 13 prisons across all security categories, with more than 2,000 inmates taking part. Many participants have commented about how it has positively impacted their lifestyle choices in terms of diet, hydration and sleep, leading to better energy levels and moods and contributing to a more positive atmosphere within the prison.
Former prisoner Alfy Kirkley, who took part in parkrun at England’s Haverigg Prison 17 times, told parkrun Australia that parkrun has helped save his life.
“I was on the brink of suicide in prison as I was trapped in a big hole. parkrun has given me structure and helped my fitness and mental health – one minute I was known as a jail junky and then all of a sudden I was the fittest and fastest man in prison. Not just physically healthy, mentally healthy too, and I now have a better social network. I have finally got my family back, too – I registered my daughter to my local parkrun and we have taken part together since my release.”