Overseer, Kirkconnell and Lithgow Correctional Centres11 years with Corrective Services NSW
John Ryan had never thought about working in a prison when he was younger but he’s been able to put his previous skills, gained as an Army aircraft technician and teacher, into good use at Corrective Services NSW.
The 51-year-old has been an overseer for the past 11 years at Kirkconnell and Lithgow correctional centres, providing inmates with vocational training and classes to improve their rehabilitation and employment opportunities when they’re released from custody.
Mr Ryan is among the more than 9,000 Corrective Services NSW staff being celebrated for their commitment to community safety on National Corrections Day, Friday 18 January.
“Working and training is very important for offenders because they learn to be motivated, develop a work ethic and gain a sense of pride,” Mr Ryan says.
“Changing their behaviour is essential, as we don’t want them returning to the community as a burden.”
Mr Ryan leads the Community Projects Team, where a group of minimum-security inmates assist local community organisations with various tasks from the upkeep of churches and parks to painting scout halls and maintaining the Portland Rural Fire Service facility.
“The work undertaken by inmates over the years has not only helped in improving their behaviour but has also shown the community that offenders can change their ways, give back to their areas and do something good for society,” Mr Ryan says.
“It’s also nice when we receive positive letters, which thank us for the job we’ve done.”
The Community Projects Team has recently been helping local drought-affected farmers with maintenance on their properties.
The team of 17 overseers at Kirkconnell also assist inmates in engineering, small motors, horticulture, hygiene and food services. Offenders have the opportunity to gain traineeships and develop diverse skills such as fixing lawn-mower repairs to welding.
“All the overseers come from different trades, including plumbing and electrical and we all do our bit to keep the prison running and help offenders where we can,” Mr Ryan says.
The 2019 National Corrections Day theme is Working Corrections, focussing on inmate industries and the work of Community Corrections officers, who supervise offenders on court-ordered community work.
Across the state, there are about 650 Corrective Services Industries’ staff, who oversee inmates undertaking work, training and other qualifications to help reintegrate them into the community and reduce reoffending.