A CLOUD hangs over the future of a program that allows Beechworth prisoners to be released to play football.
Inmates at the minimum security jail have been able to take part in matches under strict conditions for decades.
The government has announced the program will be reviewed and all violent offenders temporarily banned from playing.
It follows concerns convicted one-punch killer Dylan Closter has been playing football near Shepparton.
Six inmates are playing and training with the Beechworth Football Club this season, and president John Thistleton said it would be a shame if the program ceased.
“I just think it would be really detrimental, not just to our footy club but to the prisoners themselves,” he said.
“The object of their incarceration is to rehabilitate them.
“This is a really important part of rehabilitation.
“It would be a really retrograde step.”
Mr Thistleton said the club had never had any problems with the inmates.
The players are selected by corrections staff based on their risk, and are immediately transported back to the jail after games.
They must follow a string of conditions, including abstaining from cigarettes and alcohol.
They are banned from taking money to the grounds.
“They have a really good impact,” Mr Thistleton said of the prisoners at the club.
“It provides a bit of stability to player numbers, especially in the reserves.
“They’re all under really strict instructions that if they do something wrong, it revokes the rights of all players.
“So they’re pretty well self-managed.”
Former prisoner Chris, who participated in the program while in the jail, extolled its virtues in a talkback call to radio station 3AW.
"It's a great, valuable, program to prisoners to get themselves back into the community," he said.
"That's all it is there for, it's not a life of luxury.
"After the footy game there isn't a downtime for two to three hours, it's straight shower, back to prison."
Chris said prisoners were required to use money earned working in the jail to cover costs of footy gear.
"We purchase...it from the wages which are $3 to $4 a day and you save to purchase those boots," he said.
"We weren't given a golden ticket – 'here's your footy boots, go out and have a meat pie, don't get drunk'.
Mr Thistleton said the club was not aware of the criminal histories of the prisoner players.
Minister for Corrections Gayle Tierney said changes would be made if needed.
“No prisoners with violent convictions will have access to this football program until the findings of the review are considered,” she said.
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