Casual Correctional Officer, Metro CBD CourtsSix Months with Corrective Services NSW
Beneath Sydney’s landmark Downing Centre are a series of tunnels and cells unfamiliar to most law-abiding citizens – except the Corrective Services NSW officers who escort dozens of offenders through them each day.
Among those officers is Larry Fitzgerald, who has become familiar with his labyrinthine surroundings, since joining CSNSW last year.
It was a case of green is the new orange for the United States migrant, who worked as a correctional officer in Hampden County, Massachusetts, for several years, and is familiar with both the challenging and rewarding aspects of the profession.
And while there are differences between the US and NSW systems – including the colour of prison-issued clothes - Mr Fitzgerald says it was the familiar culture of mateship that encouraged him to continue his career with CSNSW.
“What I love most about this job are the people I work with – especially the humour that is shared among staff and the strong bonds that we form working under challenging circumstances,” he says.
“It’s always interesting to learn about our different cultural or working backgrounds, but there is no better feeling than working with someone who is willing to put their neck on the line for you.”
Mr Fitzgerald 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.
As a correctional officer in the US Mr Fitzgerald, a fitness enthusiast, raised money for athletes competing in the Special Olympics through his involvement with the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Now a NSW Rural Fire Service volunteer, he says it’s important for the community to look beyond offensive stereotypes to see the positive things correctional officers do.
“We work in a field that is not given much attention, but shining a light on what we do – at work and within the community – can really help educate the public’s perception of correctional officers,” he says.
“A big part of the work we do includes assisting inmates with rehabilitation, which not only gives that person a chance to live a better life but can also have a trickle-down effect.
“When a person is learning to change their negative or destructive ways, it may cause their family and friends to reflect on how to live a better life too – and that can have a really positive impact on our community.”
While the job isn’t for everyone, Mr Fitzgerald says you don’t have to be big and strong to be a great correctional officer.
“This is a very serious job and peoples’ lives and livelihoods are often at stake, but if you can manage people, communicate well and deal with conflict, then give it a go.”