The words of Kristofferson’s song echoed from the transistor radio and floated through the cells bars of the police lockup at Yarrabah - a small Aboriginal settlement nestled in the tropical green hills across the bay from Cairns in North Queensland. The complex, which includes three cells and a compound is made of concrete, bars and steel mesh, has no shortage of clients; and for the five young men, arrested the night before for drunkenness, freedom is just another word. For them, life on the other side of the cell bars offered little in the way of real freedom. For, as there was no escape from inside the four walls, their world outside presented them with a different set of bars, locks and constraints. Paradoxically, their only key to escapism was alcoholism, and it in turn put them back behind the real bars. In an ironic sequel, the only release from despondency of their cell life, was cell death - perhaps the ultimate freedom.
Janke, John, Crime and Punishment in Australia, Kunapipi, 10(1), 1988.