The life-altering 10 months Damien Linnane spent in prison in 2015 in NSW for maliciously damaging property, being armed with intent to commit an offence and maliciously damaging property by fire continues to forge who he is and what he does.
No, Linnane is not a recidivist offender. Rather, he is a relentless advocate for a more humane life for those in prison.
Linnane is studying for his doctorate at the University of Newcastle. His main focus: making the case why prison inmates should be allowed access to Medicare.
Amendments aimed at reducing the cost of Medicare to the federal government were introduced soon after its passage almost 50 years ago (Medicare, then known as Medibank, was passed by the Whitlam government, which was followed into power by a coalition government). The amendments prohibited Medicare payments to any government - federal, state or local. So while a person's individual eligibility for Medicare does not cease while they are incarcerated - rather, prisons are bound by legislation to not apply for Medicare services for people under their control.
Linnane says the effect of the legislation also prevents participation by prisoners in mental health care (beyond prison-contracted staff) and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
"Something I discovered early in my research," Linnane says of his advocacy for Medicare access for incarcerated people, "people have been calling for this since at least 1985".
"But no one's ever made a lot noise. Nobody has actively campaigned for it. Something I was trying to do was bring us all together, having us working together, so hopefully we could get some change there.
"We have all the evidence. It would actually save taxpayers' money to get Medicare in prisons.
"We know for a fact you shouldn't need a study to prove this. But would you believe that people who get mental health care in prison are less likely to reoffend. It costs $144,000 a year to keep someone in prison. So we know it would be beneficial to taxpayers. It would be beneficial for the prisons themselves, and it would be beneficial for society in general.
"There are literally no losers in this situation. It's a win-win-win situation.
"But even though we have all the evidence to support that, politicians generally won't touch it because improving the rights of people in prison is not a vote-winning issue."
Linnane is convinced that more public awareness, and political awareness, will bring change. He says he frequently meets people, including politicians who say, 'I had no idea there was no Medicare in prisons'.
"This issue is not well known. Even among politicians, those who know about it would be the corrections minister and the health minister. Prisons are so far out of sight, out of mind nobody really knows what goes on in there, which is how it's designed."
During Linnane's time in prison, he refined his drawing abilities and wrote a book, Scarred, which was published to critical acclaim. His artwork has been sold widely.
As part of his doctorate project, Linnane has been collecting prison magazines, which are full of prisoners' stories about life inside. (He also has a master's degree in information services.) He intends on gleaning information about inmates' physical and mental health from their stories, and is keen to find more prison magazines.
He has a unique perspective as coordinator of Paper Chained, a prison magazine he edits that reaches inmates through Australia. The magazine, funded by the Community Restorative Centre, includes contributions from inmates, including art, poetry, stories and recipes. Linnane has contributed stories and artwork to Paper Chained.
Linnane's memoir, Raw, is likely to be published in the next year.