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Guy Uses Wood to Reshape Inmates’ Lives

Not everyone would say working with inmates each day is a privilege, but that’s how passionate Guy Blinman is about changing lives and reducing reoffending.

Guy has been the cabinet shop Senior Overseer at Parklea Correctional Centre for 12 years, after owning his own business for more than 10 years and with 35 years’ experience in the cabinetmaking/joinery trade.

Guy is among 25,000 people around Australia who manage offenders in prison and in the community who will be celebrated on National Corrections Day, Friday 15 January. The annual event is an opportunity to recognise their valuable contribution to keep the community safe and rehabilitate offenders.

This year’s theme is Working together to reduce reoffending, focusing on the ways our team assist offenders through programs, education, and promoting a good workplace culture and positive interactions.

Guy decided to swap operating his own business for teaching inmates how to make timber products, after his friend, who worked at Corrective Services NSW, said he would be a good fit as an overseer.

“He said with my skills and my passion for the trade, they’d love me, and opportunities came up with South Coast Correctional Centre and Parklea, and I chose Parklea,” Guy said.

“I’d done some work with Habitat for Humanity building homes, and when I heard that I could use my skills to rehabilitate inmates and teach them carpentry skills, I was keen to make a career change in a prison.”

Guy teaches the inmates valuable skills they can use when they leave prison, such as how to operate the various woodwork machines, interpret drawings, and measure, cut and install the final product.

The inmates make items such as picnic tables and chairs, display cases, coffee carts, and school desks with chalkboards. They have made outdoor furniture for Parklea Public School, fitted out PCYC community centres, donated wooden toys to hospitals, and one inmate has created wooden Harley Davidsons from old pallets.

Guy said the best part of his job was teaching the inmates to better themselves.

“Rather than sitting in the yard doing nothing, the inmates are giving their time back to the community to make up for their crimes. One inmate said he’d learned more in three weeks working in the cabinet shop at Parklea than in 13 years because he’d been given the chance to learn,” Guy said.

“We get a bit touched when we see what these blokes have achieved.”

Guy believes teaching inmates skills is key to helping them stay out of prison, and he regularly sees the fruits of his labour when he hears how inmates are doing on the outside.

“About eight months ago I was in a pub and I got a tap on the shoulder. It was a former inmate, and he said he was working for a builder and had got his life back on track. Former inmates also get messages to me that they’re working and want to let me know how well they’re doing.”

Guy said working in a prison isn’t for everyone, but the rewards are great.

“You have to be responsible, and safety and security are paramount. You also need to be assertive and positive, and you can’t be gullible. I’m firm but fair, and I’ve got respect for them, and they’ve got respect for me.

“I enjoy coming to work and it’s a privilege to work with these guys.”

Parklea Correctional Centre is operated by MTC Australia on behalf of Corrective Services NSW. MTC Australia media inquiries: Karen Smith