A dedicated team of programs officers at Bathurst Correctional Centre is making headway in the rehabilitation of inmates on shorter sentences.
The team of eight in the High Intensity Programs Unit are among 10,000 Corrective Services NSW staff celebrated on National Corrections Day, Friday 15 January, for their commitment to reducing reoffending.
Services and programs officer Chris Osborne has worked with the team since they set up in late 2017, running programs for offenders serving sentences less than 12 months.
“It’s really about intensely going over the same skills daily to address the offending behaviours related to substance addiction, aggression or domestic abuse,” he says.
“The inmates will say ‘we did that yesterday’ but it’s like with anything, the more you do and practise, the better you’ll be and that’s the same with changing someone’s behaviour.”
Chris traded greenkeeping for a role as an overseer at Oberon Correctional Centre a decade ago before moving to Bathurst Correctional Centre in 2014.
He received a letter of appreciation from a former inmate last year who had repeatedly been in trouble with the law, mainly receiving short sentences.
“This older man mentioned you’re never too old to learn new tricks and how participating in the HIPU made him realise how precious life is, being able to see his grandkids and daughter on the outside,” Chris says.
“I’ve also seen a former inmate go on to become a drug and alcohol counsellor and that’s what reducing reoffending is about – giving people strategies so they can contribute to the community and live a life freely.”
Around 250 inmates over the past three years have benefitted from the Bathurst HIPU, which also focuses on pre-release planning including practical life and communication skills, and access to community support and mental health services.
Senior services and programs officer Georgie Ross helps organise the HIPU inmates’ program timetables among other tasks.
“While the intensity of programs is overwhelming for some, you do see improved behaviour – the men are often more relaxed towards the end and more open to change,” she says.
“I’ve delivered programs at Wellington Correctional Centre and Sydney prisons over the past 11 years but moving to the Bathurst HIPU has kept me challenged and diversified my skills.”
The 2021 National Corrections Day theme is Working together to reduce reoffending, focusing on the ways corrections staff work hard to assist offenders through programs, education, promoting a good workplace culture and positive interactions.
CSNSW includes about 5,000 custodial officers, 1,800 Community Corrections staff, 750 industries workers, 720 psychologists and programs officers and 1,170 Security and Intelligence staff.