Held on Saturday, 16 November 2019, the event involved 85 participants, including six staff members, which eclipsed the previous record of 69 participants held by the Berwyn Prison in Wales.
Dhurringile Prison was the first correctional facility in the southern hemisphere to host a parkrun, which involves staff and prisoners pulling on their sneakers for a five kilometre run, jog or walk inside the prison boundary.
The event became a weekly fixture at the minimum security prison farm earlier this year, and has led to staff and prisoners covering a combined total of 2,285 kilometres over 31 events.
Payroll Officer Bernie O’Brien has taken part in 116 parkruns, including several at Dhurringile Prison, and said it was fantastic to see the number of prisoners taking part.
“These guys, a lot of them have never been exposed to things like parkruns and it’s just really pleasing to see the positive reaction. It’s what they get out of it and hopefully when they get out of prison, they keep doing it because they belong to something.”
Mr O’Brien said that it is an event run by the prisoners, for the prisoners, which helps to create a positive environment in the prison.
“Prisoners are volunteering, I don’t know whether they’ve ever done that in their lives … and hopefully a day like this, creates a hugely positive environment and changes the way in which a lot of these prisoners look at life.”
The weekly event is supported by parkrun Australia, a not-for-profit organisation that supports 350 communities across the country to coordinate free, volunteer-led events.
Sport and Recreation Officer Benyamin Gallo said that the introduction of parkrun at Dhurringile was having a really positive impact on prisoners’ mental and physical health, and supported their rehabilitation.
“I think it’s very important (to hold events like this) because the whole point of our programs is to help reintegrate them and rehabilitate them. So, I think the more programs like this, the more of a feeling they get about being in the real world.”
Parkrun events are now also held at the medium security Hopkins Correctional Centre and minimum security Tarrengower Women’s Prison.