Issued: Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Judges and magistrates spent the day in custody. CSNSW and the Judicial Commission of NSW invited the group to visit St Heliers Correctional Centre - a minimum security prison near Muswellbrook.
CSNSW Custodial Director Glen Scholes welcomed the group and spoke about the importance of providing opportunities to inmates to gain vocational skills while in custody. He also outlined steps the Department is taking to manage growing inmate numbers while maintaining the quality of treatment programs.
The magistrates and judges learnt about the variety of programs offered to inmates to address their offending behaviour. They also heard about vocational training and education opportunities. Staff said that there was a lot of interest in case management and case planning.
St Heliers prides itself on its food self-sufficiency program. It is the biggest primary producer of beef and vegetables for CSNSW. About 70% of fresh ingredients for inmates' meals are grown at the centre. The group saw inmates working in the fields preparing crops.
The visitors heard about the centre's successful works release program which assists inmates prepare to reintegrate in the community before being released from custody.
The tour allowed staff to showcase the award winning Affordable Housing Unit where inmates build homes for remote Aboriginal communities and have recently started building modular prison cells.
During the visit, the judges and magistrates spoke with inmates. One judge said: "Already I can see how I can make changes to my sentencing options to help improve outcomes. It is wonderful to see how St Heliers is concentrated on preparing inmates for re-entry into the community. As a judge I don't want to see people cycle in and out of gaol again and again. This gives them an opportunity to break the cycle".
Another praised staff and said it was an "opportunity to see some of the most passionate and dedicated staff in the system".
One described the atmosphere at St Heliers as "refreshing" and said that all the inmates were busy working and learning. "It gives me great hope for the future".