Kerry Tucker

Using her prison sentence as an unforgettable lesson in learning to overcome challenges

When Kerry Tucker was jailed for five years in Victoria’s maximum security prison for fraud, she had two choices. She could give in to the shame and hopelessness, or apply her energy and brains to building a future. Kerry decided to turn incarceration into an opportunity.

Missing her own two daughters, she wrote a children’s book to help ease the trauma of prison visits. Kerry quickly adapted to the prison regime and set about using her skills to successfully represent women in internal court, parole hearings and child welfare issues. She also introduced her own awareness programs and encouraged inmates to enrol in courses. She helped prison administrators by helping other inmates, she acquired an education and gained her Master of Arts in the first graduation ceremony behind bars in Australia.

Rather than break her, prison made her.

"I went from being a suburban mother of two to being prisoner number 171435; my life as I knew it was completely gone. I thought my life was over. I had the choice to give in to the shame and fall into a deep, dark abyss of failure that I had created, or I could fight back, and I chose to fight - I owed it to my girls."

The former head of women's prisons, Brendan Money, says: "In 27 years working in prisons, I haven't come across any prisoner quite like Kerry. She used her time in prison so effectively she not only changed her life, but left a legacy that has changed the lives of many other women since."

"She encouraged a culture of education in the prison, which had a significant impact on the health and well-being of the prisoners," Money says. "There are women who turned their lives around because she made them feel that they could learn. Some women who could not read or write, who had been in and out of jail all of their lives, began to learn, and that's a remarkable achievement."

Now, out of prison, she is a successful academic, published author and an in demand speaker in the Fraud, Education, Prisons and Motivation arenas. The story of how she rebuilt her shattered life is in the hands of Hollywood producers and her experience behind bars is the inspiration behind Wentworth, the critically acclaimed remake of the much-loved Australian drama series Prisoner.

In November 2023, Kerry's criminal and prison record was spent in the Magistrates Court, Melbourne under the Spent Sentences Act with the support of the Magistrate, Chief Commissioner of Police and the Governor General.

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