Pris­on­ers find help­ing hand when re­leased

Whanganui Chronicle - - News - Lo­cal Hero win­ner, 92, opens home to ex-in­mates Liz Wylie [email protected]­ganuichron­i­cle.co.nz

Serv­ing a prison sen­tence should not ex­clude peo­ple from re­join­ing their com­mu­ni­ties, re­tired Whanganui builder Lyn Jones says.

The 92-year-old re­cently re­ceived a Ki­wibank New Zealan­der of the Year Lo­cal Hero Award but says he does not want this story to be about him.

“It’s not about me, it’s about chaps who didn’t get a fair start in life and end up in prison be­cause no one ever showed them kind­ness or how to tell right from wrong.”

Jones has been vis­it­ing in­mates at Whanganui’s Kaitoke Prison for 16 years, pro­vid­ing sup­port and en­cour­age­ment for their re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

When asked why, he says it is be­cause he had “lovely par­ents”.

“I was for­tu­nate to have a good start in life and my mother and my wife were the two peo­ple who have in­flu­enced me the most.

“The chaps I meet at the prison have not been for­tu­nate enough to have that in their lives so I show them as much kind­ness as I can.”

His good­will con­tin­ues when men leave prison and he has opened his own home to a num­ber of them.

“I have been let down a cou­ple of times but I don’t con­cern my­self with those.

“All the oth­ers have be­come my friends and I have no re­grets about giv­ing them sup­port.”

He says pris­on­ers are re­leased with very lit­tle money and if they don’t have fam­ily or friends to sup­port them, their op­tions are few.

“There is a lot of pub­lic­ity about re­of­fend­ing rates and it is hardly sur­pris­ing when peo­ple don’t want to give ex­pris­on­ers jobs or have them liv­ing in their neigh­bour­hoods.”

Whanganui Prison di­rec­tor Reti Pearse wrote a let­ter of sup­port for Jones’ award nom­i­na­tion and praised his work with pris­on­ers.

“The com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion shown by Lyn ex­tend well be­yond the prison it­self,” he said.

“Upon a pris­oner’s re­lease, Lyn not only some­times takes them into his own home but con­tin­ues with hospi­tal­ity and men­tor­ing.”

Some re­leased pris­on­ers and men on pa­role at­tend St Chad’s Angli­can Church in Whanganui where they find fel­low­ship and en­cour­age­ment.

“This con­gre­ga­tion is the only one where these men are per­mit­ted as parolees and that can be at­trib­uted solely to Lyn Jones.”

Al­lan An­der­son, who nom­i­nated Jones for the award, said the man was not one to blow his own trum­pet but he was happy to blow it for him.

“Lyn Jones may not have flown in outer space or dis­cov­ered a cure for cancer [very few peo­ple ever will] but his pro­found Chris­tian faith, his stub­born de­ter­mi­na­tion cou­pled with his shun­ning of the lime­light com­bine to un­der­pin a deep con­cern for his fel­low cit­i­zens and a gen­uine re­solve to turn that into mean­ing­ful ac­tion,” An­der­son said.

Jones says his Welsh grand­fa­ther, also a builder, came to New Zealand where he met his Ger­man-born wife and set­tled in Whanganui.

“My grand­fa­ther

Em­lyn for me.

“It is an an­cient part of Wales where his fam­ily were from but the name sounded a bit ‘high­fa­lutin’ and I’ve al­ways pre­ferred to be called Lyn.”

Ed­u­cated at Wan­ganui Col­le­giate, young Jones stud­ied pre­lim­i­nary en­gi­neer­ing and joined his fa­ther in the build­ing trade.

He mar­ried Maisie Wat­son in 1950 and the cou­ple had four sons who have all pur­sued build­ing ca­reers and there are now grand­sons in the trade.

Jones has vol­un­teered his build­ing skills to the com­mu­nity and worked as a vol­un­teer ranger for the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion at the John Coull Hut on the Whanganui River.

Be­fore Maisie died from cancer in 2000, Jones says they trav­elled over­seas to­gether of­ten and he took solo cy­cling tours of France and Mon­go­lia in his 70s.

“My wife never wanted to visit Rus­sia but I al­ways had a de­sire to go there and travel on the Trans-Siberian Rail­way.”

He in­sists the award nom­i­na­tion story

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the name is not about him and wants to talk about a man he met at Whanganui Prison.

“He has done well since his re­lease and has be­come a good friend.

“It’s a bit hard for him to talk on the phone be­cause his hear­ing was dam­aged when he was badly beaten by his fa­ther.

“He was only about 10 at the time and was try­ing to pro­tect his mother who was preg­nant.”

It is one of many shock­ing sto­ries Jones has heard and he says if only peo­ple would try to be less judg­men­tal and more com­pas­sion­ate, we could have a bet­ter so­ci­ety.

Jones said he was dis­ap­pointed to read a re­cent Chron­i­cle story about op­po­si­tion to a pro­posed half­way house in Shake­speare Rd.

“We need places like this so these chaps can get a new and fair start in life.”

PHOTO / BEVAN CON­LEY

wLyn Jones, who re­ceived a taonga award from Whanganui Prison in 2010, has been named a lo­cal hero but says it is not about him.

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