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Amos's story

‘I’ve known nothing but institutions and jail all me life. I’ve never done a decent day’s work in me life because I’ve always rebelled against authority because of what happened to me as a kid.’

Amos grew up in a Housing Commission home in western Sydney in which violence was commonplace. His mother did ‘the best she could’ to cope with her alcoholic husband, but the marriage ended in the mid-1970s when Amos was about 10.

As a kid, Amos was ‘right into sports’, but his family problems and undiagnosed ADHD caused him to truant and get into trouble. However, in the months after his parents’ divorce, ‘everything just spiralled downhill’ after a neighbour sexually abused him and a sibling. ‘I got barred from pretty much every school in the state’, he said. ‘No school in New South Wales would take me.’

Amos was sent to a Catholic residential care facility south of Sydney. Thinking he’d be looked after, he instead found himself in a strict and abusive environment. On one occasion, a Brother smelt smoke on him and a friend. ‘We were slapped around and that, and … I was forced onto a bed there … He was sitting on me chest. He forced his penis into me mouth and that … We ran away from there. Early the next morning we were taken back. The police got us. We were taken back. We continued to run from there.’

Amos was also sexually abused by older boys. ‘There was other kids there, older kids, you know, and they used to try and do shit to us. But as I said, we ran away from it all, and we just kept getting returned. And every time we were returned, we’d run. But every time we were returned, we were flogged.’

After a stint in a juvenile justice centre, Amos was sent to a boys’ home north of Sydney. ‘And that’s where … shit started again’, he said. Amos was physically abused by a man called Vic. Another man, Mark, was ‘a ruthless prick’ who sat in the ‘dog box’ at night watching over the dormitories. ‘I was laying in bed in front of the dog box’, Amos recalled. ‘He come out and said, “New bloke”, blah blah, and he put his hand on the top of the blankets, on top of me penis. And I just froze with fear, you know, I just thought, “Not again” …

‘And then I got a job in the kitchen … and I tried to avoid him as much as possible. But he’d come in there, he’d have his fly down. We’d be doing in the potato room, peeling spuds or whatever, and he’d come in there, and he’d have his penis out and that, and he’d walk away.

‘I ended up running away from there. And when I got returned there, they had a, they used to call it the Boob. It was isolation with big glass windows. It was a cold place around near the ablution blocks, away from the main institution … You were put in there anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, and usually put in there naked … That Mark, he’d be on night shift, he’d come in, and he masturbated on me and that, yeah. You had to face the wall when they come in of a night, and shit went on from there.’

By his mid-teens, Amos was an alcoholic who ‘had been pretty much crying out for help for quite a while’. When he was charged with ‘a heap of break and enters’, he told his solicitors about the sexual abuse. However, ‘the judge wouldn’t have a bar of the amount of alcohol’ he was drinking, and ‘everything just fell on deaf ears’. Amos was sentenced, and sent to a youth correctional facility which was ‘pretty much the end of the line as far as institutions were concerned. It was maximum security … It held so called 16 of the state’s worst juvenile offenders’.

Three men in this ‘strict’ and ‘violent’ facility stand out in Amos’s mind. One beat him after he refused to have oral sex with him. Another asked Amos for anal sex, and ‘used to stand at the door, the cell door, and masturbate of a night’. A third would run ‘porn nights’. ‘You know, watching pornographic movies and that. He’d bring alcohol and all into there, let us smoke cigarettes and, yeah … we were pretty much forced to masturbate him and that.’

Amos recommended that ‘there should always be two people, a man and a woman, always a woman with the male officer or whatever, at all times, especially when they’re interviewing them or, you know, especially on night shifts and stuff like that’.

When Amos got out at 18, he drank himself ‘near death’, and developed a lifelong addiction to heroin. He uses the drug in jail, and has intentionally tried to overdose because he felt that he ‘had no one and nothing’. As a teenager, he had a child with an older woman, but he no longer has contact with them. He is a ‘private’ person by choice, who has only had ‘off and on relationships’, but he does have a couple of good friends outside jail who keep in touch, put money in his account, and ‘don’t frown on’ the life he has led.

About five years ago, Amos had a good rehab experience during which he met a counsellor he felt he could immediately trust. ‘She worked tirelessly with me, she worked hard with me’, he said. ‘And I thought, you know, if I ever want to get better, and give up this heroin, I better get to the core of these abuse issues’. The rehab program, which was run on Christian principles, was ‘the best thing that ever happened’ to him.

‘I asked God into my life, and that sort of helps’, he said. ‘She tried to encourage me to come back there. She said, God’s … not finished with you yet.’

However, Amos believes that he will never give rehab another go. ‘I’m going to struggle with heroin for the rest of me life. I know that. It’s just, the writing’s on the wall so to speak. Yeah … I’ll probably die on heroin, you know, or drink.’

Amos also expects to remain in the prison system. ‘As soon as I get out … I set myself up for a fall straight away because I know that in my heart I will never ever live a clean drug free life, you know. I can’t function out there without it.’

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