Prison top boss reflects on four decades in corrections

Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin is today marking a 40 year career in corrections, a period which has seen dramatic changes in prison technology and the types of offenders and the crimes they commit.

During his eight years as Commissioner in NSW, Mr Severin has overseen the biggest prison infrastructure program in Australian history, the largest investment in reducing reoffending and steered the organisation safely through a global pandemic.

Minister for Counter Terrorism and Corrections Anthony Roberts congratulated Mr Severin on reaching the four-decade milestone.

“Peter is recognised as a global leader in the field of corrections and I’m grateful that he’s running the state’s prisons and parole offices,” Mr Roberts said.

Commissioner Severin began his career as a prison officer in Germany on 1 October 1980, and quickly rose through the ranks.

He was chief executive of the Department for Correctional Services in South Australia for nine years, and worked with QLD Corrective Services for 15 years, his last position as Deputy Director-General.

“I was very fortunate in my career, even though I have always worked in the same industry I have worked in many different areas of prison and parole and this is the fascination about corrections,” Mr Severin said.

“Everybody employed in corrections is there for the same purpose and that is to ensure community safety and security and a humane system where people can be rehabilitated.

“I have always been fascinated by this industry, and I always had a passion to be part of a team that makes a difference and that is the same today as it was 40 years ago.”

Commissioner Severin said the most dramatic change in corrections since 1980 has been the use of technology, which has changed the role of prison officers.

“When I started everything was done by walking around and watching things,” he said.

“These days we’re walking around but in doing so we can positively engage with the inmates, because now the watching is done by CCTV cameras, alarmed fences and electronic locks.”

The types of offenders have also changed, with NSW now home to Australia’s largest prison for terror and extremist inmates – a cohort that did not exist 40 years ago.

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