Building Bridges not Walls, the Social Justice Statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference for 2011-2012, focuses on the plight of people in our prisons. Cessnock Correctional Centre, in the Hunter region of NSW, currently accommodates almost 500 inmates in minimum, maximum or segregated security. Two people involved in providing different services for inmates at Cessnock Correctional Centre tell their stories to Aurora.
An inside view from a corrective services officer…
Paul Jones is employed as a senior correctional officer at Cessnock Correctional Centre. In his 19 years of service he has worked at numerous centres throughout the state including Long Bay, Parramatta, Wollongong, Brewarrina and Tomago, witnessing many changes. With colleagues, he has fought hard against proposed privatisation changes, and work hard to deliver professional correctional service, to reduce re-offending and enhance community safety.
Paul’s original intention was never to remain working in the prison environment. After a short period of unemployment during the 90s, he applied to train and become a prison officer and distinctly remembers thinking, “Paul, you’ve really hit rock bottom now.”
He admits that his work life is a bit of a roller coaster and days can vary from feeling positive about making a difference to someone, and five minutes later having that feeling reversed by an inmate who has self-harmed.
Saving souls – a Chaplain’s prayer...
Recently appointed chaplain at Cessnock Correctional Centre, Deacon Peter Little (pictured) sees his role as one of engagement without judgement and liaises with all inmates who are willing to engage and wish to better their predicament. He notes that “The chaplain’s role is to be that presence that offers a hand to reconnect, get up and walk, run ahead.”
He is hopeful that his listening, reflective presence gives emotional, spiritual and practical support and will assist the inmate to a better direction in life. Through numerous programs which support positive lifestyles, and addressing requests (which may involve attending family events like funerals), there are practical ways to help.
These are always done in collaboration with corrective service officers. Peter also supports the officers by providing spiritual and emotional support. He too attests to the team atmosphere within the prison.
FULL STORY Building bridges, not walls (Aurora)