Bed­time sto­ries from be­hind bars


Kath reads her chil­dren bed­time sto­ries once ev­ery month.

She cre­ates worlds of young ad­ven­tur­ers find­ing trea­sure chests, silly kids with dull teach­ers and bored rat­bags flick­ing bo­gies across the class­room floor.

But Kath can’t see the ex­cite­ment light up her chil­dren’s eyes as she turns the pages and there’s no kiss on the fore­head once the book closes.

In­stead her chil­dren take a CD out of its player, and lie down alone. And Kath lies in her cell, imag­in­ing it all.

She’s been in that cell, be­hind the barbed wire fence sur­round­ing Aro­hata Prison for ten months - it’s nearly the first year down in a five-and-a-bit-year prison sen­tence.

For ev­ery month over the last seven, she’s recorded her­self read­ing books - one for her 11-year-old girl, and one for her six-year-old boy as part of the The Bed­time Sto­ries Pro­gramme.

She does so to en­sure her ba­bies still know her voice.

‘‘It was def­i­nitely a con­cern not be­ing able to par­ent and have those in­ti­mate par­ent-child mo­ments that you have at home,’’ Kath says, sit­ting in­side what seems like a school room but with prison guards on watch.

Her fine, blonde hair is wrapped up in a bun as she sits down. Her rolled up track pants re­veal her socks tucked into her jan­dals.

She once worked in ed­u­ca­tion, then lab­o­ra­tory work, be­fore find­ing her­self in prison. She’s not al­lowed to say why, and we’re not al­lowed to iden­tify her.

Kath is warm, down-to-earth, ra­tio­nal, yet a lit­tle ner­vous. She’s hav­ing a day off from her six-day job where she cooks for the pris­on­ers, en­sur­ing the needs of the gluten-free, the dairy-free, the nut-free and the ve­gan are all looked af­ter. On the out­side, she’d never be a chef, but she en­joys hav­ing some­thing to do to pass the time.

Her eyes sparkle when she speaks of her chil­dren. Her el­dest, aged 18 and 22, tell her sto­ries of her young ones.

‘‘My six year old lights up,’’ she’s been told.

‘‘When he got the first book he ob­vi­ously had no idea it was go­ing to be mum on the CD and my older kids said [of] his re­ac­tion, he was stunned, and he kept mak­ing them play it back and back to hear mum and have mum present and there.

‘‘I guess [it’s] the clos­est thing to be­ing there in my ab­sence - to hear my voice.’’

The pro­gramme is led by Vic­to­ria Univer­sity lec­turer Ker­ryn


Aro­hata pris­oner Kath reads a book for her chil­dren as part of the Bed­time Sto­ries pro­gramme in the jail.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.