Like all prisoners, *Shane’s story didn’t begin the day of his sentencing. He was just a boy when his life began to unravel.
Shane’s dad was a World War II veteran who self-medicated his PTSD with alcohol. He was a violent drunk. Shane’s mum suffered mental health issues, so his childhood was marred by physical and emotional abuse.
He left school at 16 and by 17, Shane had become an alcoholic himself. It was the only way he knew to cope with his dysfunctional home life.
He reconnected with some high school friends who introduced him to marijuana, and within three months, he was injecting heroin. When both his parents passed away, he sold their house and spent all $100,000 from the sale on drugs.
Shane was so caught up in addiction, he couldn’t even afford to buy food. Desperate and feeling helpless, he cried out to a God he didn’t even really believe in: “Whatever it takes, get me out of this.”
Soon after, a friend who was also trapped in addiction asked Shane to help himself and his girlfriend commit suicide, as he believed that was the only way to escape from it. This was the crime that saw Shane convicted of murder and, weighing less than 55kg, he found himself in prison and still struggling with addiction. He couldn’t sleep for weeks on end.
The final straw came when his prison cell was flooded after a washing machine hose broke and all his meagre belongings fell into the water. He cried out to God again: “Either kill me or save me.” Shane had reached breaking point, and prison chaplains were there to gently lift him out of his own quagmire of depression and addiction.
One chaplain sat with him for a couple of hours every Saturday morning, just listening to Shane complain about his life. Eventually he taught Shane to be thankful in all things, even the difficult things.
Another chaplain taught Shane how to read the Bible and he started reading it each evening in his cell. He also joined midweek Bible study groups. He looked forward to chapel every Sunday and while he was still in prison, he made a pulpit and a giant cross for the prison chapel.
With the help of chaplains, Shane completed Year 10 English and History as well as courses in Horticulture and OH&S and an Advanced Diploma in Theology and Ministry.
Shane believes that if chaplains had ‘preached’ at him he wouldn’t have listened and he’d be back ‘inside’, but their care for him was the most powerful sermon he would ever hear.
“When you care,” Shane says, “it changes people.”
What Shane saw when he looked at the chaplains was people who were always helping the “least of these”. When the world said, “You’ve had too many chances,” chaplains said, “God has a plan for your life.”
Shane would never have guessed that God would place him in prison to transform his life. But God really did answer his prayer to do “whatever it takes.”
Today, Shane has been ‘outside’ for 18 months. He was married last year, and he hosts a Connect group at his local church with his wife. He would eventually like to get involved with helping other ex-prisoners re-integrate into society upon their release.
He recalls someone asking a chaplain what it is they do in prison. The chaplain responded simply: “Make friends.” And Shane couldn’t agree more.
“For many, chaplains are the only Bible these prisoners will ever read, and their actions speak louder than any book,” Shane says.
Chaplains are there to do “whatever it takes” to bring a lost sheep to the cross.
If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, please seek help:
Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14
Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636