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Community Corrections Manager, Bathurst15 years with Corrective Services NSW
Jo Stapleton’s first day on the job was something of a baptism by fire.
She began her career in Corrective Services NSW at the parole unit of Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre at Silverwater in Sydney’s west at the age of 22.
“I was relatively naïve and to say it was an eye opener would be an understatement,” Ms Stapleton says.
“For the first month I left nearly every interview with an inmate in tears, shocked at the trauma and disadvantage these offenders had experienced. Needless to say I toughened up pretty quick,” she says.
Ms Stapleton is among 1,400 of CSNSW’s Community Corrections officers and more than 8,000 total staff to be celebrated as part of the country’s first annual National Corrections Day.
As a Community Corrections Manager, she needs to be able to think fast and stay calm - traits that serve her well in unusual situations.
“I remember an offender reporting once to say he couldn’t do Community Service that day because he had no clean clothes,” Ms Stapleton says.
“When I opened the door to let him into the interview room he was dressed in nothing but a bed sheet!”
Ms Stapleton is now a manager at Bathurst and Lithgow Community Corrections offices but the motivations that drew her to the job 15 years ago continue to drive her.
“As sappy as it is, I do wholeheartedly believe we make a difference,” she says.
“The belief that a person can change and be rehabilitated is what underpins our organisation - if I didn’t think it were possible or worthwhile I wouldn’t do what I do.”
Ms Stapleton believes National Corrections Day is a great way to raise the profile of Community Corrections officers because “people don’t really know what we do and I feel like we’re doing good things.”
She also wants people to realise it’s a great career. After that first trying day at Silverwater, she never dreamed she’d still be here 15 years later.
“I thought it would just be a stop-gap,” she says.
“But I feel like I have a lot more to contribute. I feel like I am just hitting my straps.”
Community Corrections officers work intensely with offenders once they are released from custody on parole, or are serving community based orders, to provide them with professional case management and supervision in the community.
Evidence shows that supervision combined with rehabilitation is the most effective way of reducing reoffending.
Under new laws to strengthen sentencing options and enable smarter management of parolees, more offenders will be subject to supervision by Community Corrections officers.
The new laws are part of a package of reforms being rolled out by the middle of next year to reduce reoffending, improve community safety and support victims.