When Newcastle’s Damien Linnane was sentenced to 10 months in prison, he wanted to use his time behind bars to study.
Mr Linnane, a former Australian soldier, was locked away in November 2015 for a series of crimes, which included firebombing the home of a person accused of sexually assaulting a family member.
The crimes were described as vigilante justice by the sentencing magistrate.
Just days into his sentence, Linnane discovered he wasn’t allowed any education tools or therapy, while he was also considered too low risk for rehabilitation programs.
There was no internet access and hardly any computer time.
“I thought: ‘What am I going to do for 10 months?’” Mr Linnane tells Newcastle Weekly.
“All I had was a paper and pen, so I started writing out ideas.”
Mr Linnane spent the first five months writing a crime thriller novel and, during the second half of his sentence, taught himself to draw.
His novel, Scarred, has been signed to a Melbourne-based publisher.
He will now host a joint book launch and art exhibition on Friday 15 November at Hudson Street Hum, Hamilton, from 6pm to 8pm.
“I never thought I’d write a book or be an artist,” he says.
“Scarred is about a young man with undiagnosed autism, which really affects his thought patterns.
“My autism wasn’t diagnosed until I was 25 years old, so I know what that was like.
“I always found it hard to study or concentrate at school.”
Since he left prison, Linnane has been outspoken in his belief that the system needs to change in order to prevent reoffending.
In 2016, a state government-led review saw the introduction of a Better Prisons program, which was designed to improve standards that support rehabilitation and reduce the likelihood of inmates reoffending upon release.
It also rolled out a new prison education model, with inmates completing literacy and numeracy qualification increasing to 43% between 2015-16 and 2017-18.
However, only four correctional facilities offer Intensive Learning Centres to cater for inmates with the highest level of basic education needs.
Mr Linnane continues to lobby for better programs and mental health support for prisoners, as well as involuntary mental health patients.
Scarred will be released on Thursday 28 November.