Parklea Correctional Officer Sue Price believes everyone deserves a second chance and is passionate about helping inmates achieve their goals and stay out of prison.
Sue is the External Leave Manager at Parklea Correctional Centre, which involves finding inmates work with businesses on the outside as part of their preparation for re-entering the community.
She is also the Manager for Area 4, the minimum security part of the prison, and her dual role enables her to have a significant impact on rehabilitating inmates whose time in custody is coming to an end.
Sue is among 25,000 people across Australia who manage offenders in prison and in the community who will be celebrated on National Corrections Day, Friday 20 January. The annual event recognises their valuable contribution to keep the community safe and rehabilitate offenders.
Sue dreamed of being a prison officer when she was a teenager and joined as soon as she was old enough.
“I love working with people and doing something different every day and corrections offers that,” Sue said.
She stayed in corrections for 10 years and then started her own landscaping business after being a horticultural overseer at a prison, and then opened a café, as she loves coffee. But she missed being an officer, so she joined the Parklea team eight years ago.
Sue has found her niche as External Release Manager and said the program is like an employment agency.
Parklea inmates work in a variety of industries, such as warehousing and logistics, construction, laundry and tyre fitting. They get paid award wages, are able to save money, pay rent to the prison and support their family.
“Many employers see it as an opportunity to give someone a go who hasn’t had a chance in the past,” Sue said.
“The advantages for the employer is they know the inmate’s background, but don’t with people off the street, and the inmate will turn up every day and if they’re sick they’ll get a call from the prison letting them know.
“Inmates appreciate the opportunity, so they go the extra mile as they’ve been given another chance.
“The hope is the inmate will impress them and they stay on after they’re released.”
Sue said the program was an important part of prison progression as it not only prepared inmates for release but also showed them they could break the cycle of reoffending.
“It allows them to reintegrate, it teaches them independence, how to budget, contribute to their family and prepares them for real life,” Sue said.
“Everyone expects them to fail, and they’re conscious of that, but the program supports them through it.
“As a society we need to recognise people need a second chance and having inmates in stable work is a big part of that.
“If a person has done everything they need to do to become a proper member of society, then we need to help them, as they can’t do it alone. It takes a team.”
Joe* has been part of Parklea’s external leave program for six months and works at a wrecking yard.
He said the program had helped him change the way he thought and acted.
“When you first come to gaol, all you get used to is gaol. Doing this gets you back to normal life,” Joe said.
“The officers trust you to go out and I don’t think about the gaol when I’m out or what I used to do any more.”
Joe said his work mates were very welcoming and didn’t judge him for being in prison.
“From day one they made me feel comfortable and treated me like a part of the team,” Joe said.
“No one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes, but if people want to learn from it there are people who give us a go and don’t judge us.
“Sue helps us so much, especially the ones who want help.”
Joe has a job lined up driving trucks and a forklift when he gets out of prison this year.
“It was just stupid choices that brought me here, but this time I’m never coming back.”
Parklea Correctional Centre is operated by MTC Australia on behalf of Corrective Services NSW.
*Name has been changed.