By Mike Atkinson | Drive producer and digital content creator
Shane Taylor’s first encounter with the wrong side of the law was at 17 years old.
He would spend the next five years in an out of custody from crimes ranging from armed robbery, stolen motor vehicles and drug possession but once he hit 22 years old he decided enough was enough.
A Whitelion youth worker threw Shane a lifeline after getting to know him and helped encourage Shane to use his time behind bars to get a better education, learn about himself and to get back with his family sooner.
“I was first incarcerated at that age in juvenile detention – the hardest week of my life. I was on the phone to my mum everyday having a good crying, saying ‘Mum, I want to come home.’ I’m a mummy’s boy,” said Shane.
Mike Dixon (left) with Jeziel (centre) and Shane (right)
“After that began a downward spiral and a found myself in prison three times after that. I was most recently incarcerated at the age of 22 and was sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment.
“(My) partner was three months pregnant so six months into that stint she gave birth to my baby girl and that was pretty hard, but that was the point where I decided to turn my life around and thankfully Whitelion came along with some programs – in particular the indigenous employment program.”
The plan worked; Shane was granted parole for good behaviour six months before his two year sentence was due to end.
Shane followed in the footsteps of his mentor and, with the help of Whitelion, became a youth worker himself.
“They gave me a lot of support in finding and maintaining employment as a youth worker. They trained me up to be a youth worker through courses of study that I’ve done, the community services course and they’ve really supported me ever since then. I’ve been employed ever since then… for more than two years,” said Shane.
The Whitelion Bail Out is a fundraiser that provides a unique opportunity to step into the shoes of a young person that has been disconnected from the community due to abuse and neglect, drug addiction and poverty.
It gives participants the chance to experience prison conditions first hand at Fremantle Prison on Thursday 27 April and meet former inmates who lived the real thing day in day out.
Whitelion WA State Manager Mike Dixon said the event’s an opportunity to walk in the shoes of a young person that’s lived a life with disadvantage, poverty and found themselves in conflict with the law.
“It’s an opportunity to have an experience unlike any other where you really get to have an empathy for the issues that exist and also hear about some of the solutions that Whitelion are doing to change the picture,” said Mike.
Podcast: Shane Taylor and Mike Dixon with Jeziel on Drive
“There’s theatrical element so it is hammed up a little bit but the message behind it is that we really need to do better as a community to avoid young people facing these circumstances and facing imprisonment and there’s where Whitelion programs try to intervene and give people a pathway outside into the community into success.”
Mike said other inmates can take inspiration from what Shane has been through.
“Shane’s story is unique but everyone’s capable of writing that happy ending and that’s where we try and intervene.
“Some stories are very unfortunate and don’t have the desired ending for the person experiencing that. Our role is to make sure that people that have born into disadvantaged and have a rough trot get ahead and write the end of their story.”