Senior Correctional Officer, Mary Wade Correctional Centre28 years with Corrective Services NSW
Lisa Barrett can still hear the laughter from her first day as a correctional centre officer, when she tried to unlock a gate and, as she pulled the key out of the lock, ended up with chewing gum all over her.
“It was an inmate, of course,” says Ms Barrett, now a senior correctional officer at the newly-opened Mary Wade Correctional Centre in Lidcombe in Sydney’s west.
“I was only 20 years old, so young and inexperienced, and all the inmates knew it!”
But after having worked across a wide variety of NSW Corrective Services roles over the past 28 years ¬– in male and female prisons, mental health and policy units and now a female remand centre – Ms Barrett soon learned the ropes, and now, can’t imagine doing anything else.
She 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.
“I like a lot about my career,” Ms Barrett says.
“No day is ever the same. Just when you think you’ve met and dealt with every kind of personality, a new one pops up who you have to work out how to manage and help.
“You learn something new every day.”
Ms Barrett also enjoys the challenges of working in mental health units.
“A lot of these inmates experienced terrible trauma which led to them becoming offenders, and for many, the unit offers proper routine and real care for the first time in their lives,” she says.
But what Ms Barrett admires the most are the dedicated and professional officers and other people she’s worked with over nearly three decades.
Sharing their stories for National Corrections Day is “both an honour and a wonderful opportunity to share their great work with the community.”
“Correctional officers aren’t anything like what the public may see in films or television shows,” Ms Barrett says.
“We’re compassionate and professional to the inmates and work closely with each other – we become a family looking out for each other all the time.
“We keep the community safe, by educating offenders with programs that help them through their rehabilitation process in prison, then through Community Corrections supervision, to assist them to reintegrate back into the community and to lead law-abiding lives.”
For Ms Barrett, such education is a key factor to breaking the cycle of reoffending.