Correctional Officer, St Heliers Correctional CentreOne year with Corrective Services NSW
Kami Lang was recently asked why Corrective Services NSW frontline staff needed to bother doing 10 weeks of training, because surely working in a prison is as simple as knowing how to use a lock and key.
Ms Lang, a custodial officer at St Heliers Correctional Centre, near Muswellbrook in the Hunter region, was stunned.
“It surprised me that in this day and age the job we do and the complexities of working with offenders is still a mystery to some people,” Ms Lang says.
“We are trained for the job that we do, and that involves firearms, case management, fire-fighting, crime scene management and dealing with at-risk offenders – to name just a few.
“Correctional officers do work behind fences, in wings, yards and offices away from the public eye, so National Corrections Day is a positive way to break down the barriers and the misconceptions from the public and show them what we really do.”
Ms Lang is among 5,140 of CSNSW’s custodial officers, services and programs staff and psychologists - and more than 8,000 total staff - to be celebrated as part of the country’s first annual National Corrections Day.
The 40-year-old spent 15 years working in social welfare before she joined CSNSW 12 months ago and was posted to St Heliers, a minimum-security centre with around 280 male inmates.
“St Heliers is a working prison - we see inmates here complete traineeships, gain workplace qualifications and participate in programs such as the racehorse rehabilitation scheme,” Ms Lang says.
“Other inmates, who have earned the right, are allowed to work in the community gaining employable skills and – for some – their first income.
“It’s no secret that breaking the cycle of re-offending and crime is a seemingly overwhelming task. But for that one person who doesn’t reoffend, it means there is no more negative impacts on their families, friends, their towns and the community we all live in.”
Ms Lang’s father worked as a storeman at correctional centres, while her mother taught art to inmates, so the prison environment wasn’t a complete shock to the new recruit. The camaraderie with her colleagues, however, was a nice surprise.
“As a correctional officer, I’m a minority: a 40-year-old Aboriginal woman, who is a single mother,” Ms Lang says.
“But when I put on my uniform to come to work, I’m an officer who is part of a strong team of exceptional staff. How many jobs are there where you’re prepared to put yourself in harm’s way for your colleagues and know that they’re prepared to do the same for you?
“Despite our different personalities, ranks and experience, you become part of an extended family. That’s what I love about this job.”