In a world first for a remand centre, officers and prisoners at Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre (BWCC) are lacing up to organise and take part in parkrun each Saturday morning at the prison from January 25.
Parkrun is a free, weekly five kilometre timed walk or run, held in parks and public spaces all over the world to encourage participants to get active and be involved in their community with family and friends.
More than 90 prisoners have signed up to participate or volunteer in the event, which involves participants completing 20 laps of the oval at BWCC.
QCS Deputy Commissioner Custodial Operations Andrew Beck said activities such as parkrun brought officers and prisoners together, creating a safer prison by building a sense of community whilst improving the health of the women at the centre.
“This is really important in terms of how we transform women’s lives and create safer communities. Our prisons are a form of community, and the stronger the community, the safer our prisons and officers are,” Deputy Commissioner Beck said.
QCS Assistant Commissioner Women and Safer Custody Tamara Bambrick said while the women would benefit from parkrun while in custody, it was something they could continue once released.
“Parkrun educates prisoners about their health and wellbeing, and helps them develop healthy routines which assist with their success post release,” AC Bambrick said.
Parkrun Health and Wellbeing Lead Glen Turner said across Australia, the link between parkrun events and health services in prisons was increasing.
“For many prisons that facilitate parkrun, these events provide a referral option for medical staff who signpost prisoners who can benefit from the fresh air, social connections and physical activity component of parkrun. This leads to a better relationship between officers and prisoners, and the prisoner group as a whole,” Mr Turner said.
West Moreton Health Public Health Physician, Dr Catherine Quagliotto, said implementation was a collaborative effort involving parkrun Australia, West Moreton Health, QCS and most importantly, the women in BWCC. Introducing parkrun into the centre was already showing results.
“Some of the women who have been involved in trial runs are already talking about the physical health benefits of parkrun. For others, parkrun is helping with their anxiety and depression; it allows them to talk with and support each other,” Dr Quagliotto said.
“There are also invaluable flow-on effects such as a sense of empowerment and self-worth as well as community building.
Parkrun began in London in 2004 and Australia in 2011, and was first introduced into prisons in England in 2017 and in Australia last year.
Since its inception, parkrun has seen more than 6,000 prisoners and officers walk, run or volunteer in prison parkruns globally.