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​Geoff King

Assistant Superintendent

30 years with Corrective Services NSW

It was no laughing matter for Geoff King on his first shift working as a prison officer on April Fool's Day 1986 where there were 700 inmates standing in the yard around him.

The Assistant Superintendent, who now works at Cooma Correctional Centre in the state's south east, was given a baton and shield to deal with any situation, but he says a lot has changed since.

"Intimidation was the biggest problem facing officers back then," he says.

"Even though we had riot gear, the inmates knew they had numbers on us.

"You really had to act on your feet and learn how to get things done quickly.

"Through a restructure of security protocols we saw the increase of staff and the decrease of assaults.

"We went from having 700 inmates in a yard to groups of yards with no more than 70 inmates in each."

The 53-year-old former sales representative says it was a newspaper advertisement for correctional officers that motivated him to apply.

"Before I joined I didn't know a thing about the job or what I was getting into but I have adapted and the rest is history," he says.

Having worked across the state at Long Bay, Parklea, Parramatta, St Heliers, Broken Hill and Ivanhoe correctional centres, over the past 30 years Mr King says he's seen a change in the type of criminal who enters prison and has learnt to adjust his approach.

"When I entered the job, we mainly dealt with underworld figures who were hardened criminals. Today, our centres have a lot of inmates who are in for drug offences and require rehabilitation programs," he says.

"I understand each inmate's background and manage their needs individually so they can be referred to the relevant services and programs.

"To effectively communicate with each personality, I choose to use my big, booming voice or my calm voice, depending on who I'm dealing with."

Mr King says his ability to communicate with offenders improves with every incident he deals with.

"Every situation can be negotiated through talk. Force is always the last option," he says.

"It only takes a few minutes of communicating with the inmate for them to comply and the situation can be resolved."