As a baby, Carey was kinship fostered amongst his relatives in a regional Queensland town. In the mid-1980s, when he was five years old, he was taken into the sole care of his grandmother. ‘I went to school. Done everything normal. Played football. Done all them kind of things.’
Carey was diagnosed with severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and this has affected his whole life. When he was about eight years old, he began to spend time with older local men in the neighbourhood ‘smoking cigarettes, having the odd drink here and there, smoking a bit of pot … doing crime, getting into break and enters, stuff like that’.
By the age of 12, Carey was appearing in court for crimes such as smashing windows and minor break and enters. He wound up spending a short time in a juvenile justice centre, where he was subjected to physical and sexual abuse by a female guard.
When he went back to his grandmother’s he couldn’t remain at school and had difficulties with his extended family.
‘Mum was a drug addict and my father didn’t really want nothing to do with us … getting raised by my grandmother but then I just end up leaving home … I just ran the streets.’
At 13 years old he started to get into the ‘real heavy shit’, taking speed and heroin.
‘I’ve just been in and out of jail ever since. I’ve never really gone home. I’ve been in for nearly 18 years. Get out, do a couple of break and enters. Come back in. Get out, do a robbery. Come back in. That’s all I’ve been doing all my life. I’ve got a heroin addiction for 20 years.’
Carey was 14 years old when he began his second stay in juvenile corrections. This centre was even more violent than the first.
‘I used to cop a hiding from the officers all the time. They made me do shit like scrub the floor for months in the same area … for punishments. I’ve been punched in the chest by officers that hard, by body building officers, steroid freak officers that I was spewing blood for a week … I had to go to the nurses … I went down and seen them but I just told them I got hit by a basketball.’
Carey was also groomed and sexually abused by a female guard in the centre over many months. He tried to escape but it didn’t work and he received punishment from the guards in the form of more targeted physical abuse. He was put in a cell where there were no cameras and the guards physically assaulted him.
‘Copped a good couple of hidings in there … a good couple of dustings in there.’
There was no staff member he felt able to report the violence and abuse to and wouldn’t have because of the risk of further payback punishments from the guards.
Carey believes that his experience in adult corrections has been affected by his juvenile record, and that he receives more severe treatment inside jail and in sentencing ‘because I was locked up as kid’.
‘I’m always in lock down units. I’m always in shit units … in play-up units. They always put me in the position where I can’t progress and they say “Carey, how come you don’t progress?” But they never give me a chance to progress.’
He has also found that racism is common in both juvenile and adult corrections.
‘Racial war fights in jail. I’ve had white officers hold me down while the white inmates smash me. That was a shit day.’
He is given little support in jail and has never received counselling for his sexual abuse.
‘The only way they recognise me is when I’m going off and when I’m going off they write me up and they say “He’s a loose cannon” … they don’t understand … It’s sad because I don’t want to get angry at people, you know, I don’t want them to see that I’m a loose cannon. I just want to be happy.’
Over the last few years Carey has reflected on his life.
‘I just want it to stop. I want to end it. I’m sick of jail … I feel like I’ve got nothing left. I can’t help my family. My mum’s dying. They won’t let me see her. Lost my grandmother. My brother, he died.
‘Too much jail is fucking with my head. I’ve never been out for long enough to explain myself to my sisters … I’ve never had a Christmas or a birthday … 18 years … I’ve got nothing.’
Carey now assists other Aboriginal inmates as they go through their sentences. He encourages them to keep their heads down and keep working towards getting out of prison to be with their families, and hopes he will be able to do the same.
‘Water will find its own level. I believe there’s a reaction to every action you put out. “Positive things happen to positive people” that’s how I always run with, and I run with “tough times never last, tough people do”. I try to teach that to everyone every day. That’s how I keep on moving forward because I keep on putting all that hurt behind me.’