A FORMER prisoner who has continued to play football for Beechworth after being released from the town’s prison has turned his life around.
Ryan Harry, 36, has played for the Bushrangers for three seasons, including a season while still serving time behind bars.
The ruckman and centre half forward was able to be released to play as part of a program which is now on hold while under review.
Harry, who was sentenced to four-and-a-half years’ jail for aggravated burglary, was released at the end of 2016.
He now runs a Melbourne concreting business while on parole, and travels to the North East to play for Beechworth.
“It made life a lot easier for me,” he said of the program.
“Before going out on the footy program, I hadn’t been outside the jail or had interactions with someone who wasn’t an employee of corrections or a prisoner.
“It was good to interact with normal people in society and gave me a bit of confidence coming home.”
Harry said it helped with rehabilitation and transitioning out of custody.
“It just becomes the norm,” he said of life in jail.
“I think it’s a broken system … I don’t know where you’d start to fix it.
“It’s easy to go in there and come out much worse than to begin with.
“You’ve got to make a conscious effort to want to make some changes in your life.”
While he occasionally “copped a bit of flak from the sidelines", the experience was valuable.
He has played 15 games this season but has been sidelined through injury.
The 36-year-old hopes the jail program, which involves six Beechworth players this year, will return.
The players are being reviewed by corrections, and club president John Thistleton said they would "cobble together” a side for Saturday.
“There are always going to be those who think it's a negative and that people need to be punished,” he said.
“But you do your time and punishment, and move on with your life and do something constructive.
“It helps with the opportunity to do that.”
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