A NEW community program has been established to help former inmates get their lives back on track following release.
The Bathurst Uniting Support Services (BUSS) is working with former inmate Gavin Squires to run the Outside the Barb Wire program.
It is a weekly support group for those who have been in jail and would like to meet with others with a similar experience for a chat and cuppa.
They can also learn valuable life skills to assist them in living outside of jail.
At each meeting, participants have a chance to talk about their week and get advice from their peers about how to address any problems they might be facing.
Representatives from other services in the community, such as financial counselling, are also present if people want further support.
Mr Squires, who himself spent 29 years in jail, is confident that the program can change lives.
"It would have helped me a long time ago and I probably would have helped myself if I had have started it back then, but I guess I wasn't ready back then," he said.
"When you're ready, I suppose you know, but having somewhere to go when you're thinking about being ready is a good, positive thing."
Julie Fry, the coordinator of BUSS, said the concept of the program is "brilliant".
"Gavin has spent most of his life, since a nine-year-old, locked up. He is really passionate about there being somewhere where people who have had experiences in prison can share with one another and learn," she said.
"The amazing thing to me is we've had great support with Corrective Services as well and they've been sending people down who run different programs, so we've been able to hook people up with programs they didn't know existed.
"That's been a fantastic outcome."
While the program is only in its infancy, both Ms Fry and Mr Squires want to see it grow.
"I want to eventually have camps all set up where we can all meet and go out camping, and do fishing trips together and programs, like money budgeting courses ... things that we need to do, but are overlooked because you're busy with life," Mr Squires said.
Outside the Barb Wire meets on Thursdays between 4pm and 5pm at the Bathurst Uniting Church in William Street.
To access the meeting room, walk around to the back of the church, through the playground and then the Colorbond gates.
For more information, call 0455 328 966.
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