Leaving prison without a support network can be a daunting experience if you don’t have a place to live or a job to go to.
Now a team of Throughcare coordinators at Parklea Correctional Centre are working with inmates to give them the best chance to succeed on the outside.
Chris Allen, Emily Stone, Rachel Williams and Lidya Mikic are among 25,000 people across Australia who manage offenders in prison and in the community who will be celebrated on National Corrections Day, Friday 21 January.
The annual event recognises their valuable contribution to keep the community safe and rehabilitate offenders.
This year’s theme is Giving Back, and the Throughcare team are passionate about helping inmates change their lives and providing them with the tools they need to reach their true potential.
Chris heads up the Throughcare team at Parklea, having worked for Corrective Services NSW for more than 20 years, firstly as an officer and then finally at a reintegration centre.
“I wanted to do something more rewarding and when I worked at the reintegration centre with inmates about to be released, it was the first time I felt I was doing something meaningful,” Chris said.
MTC Australia’s Throughcare option is an innovative reintegration program and is a key part of its reducing reoffending strategy.
The program is free for inmates who have finished their sentence or are being released from Parklea on bail and need help finding accommodation, housing, employment, counselling and other support.
Inmates are assigned a Throughcare Coordinator who works with them to ensure the necessary infrastructure and services are in place before their release and regularly checks in with them once they leave prison.
The program began in July last year and the team has now assisted more than 50 inmates.
Emily said part of her role was looking at what inmates found difficult to navigate since they were last released.
“In the first two weeks after release they need a lot of support with things like finding work and understanding the Centrelink process, the things we take for granted,” Emily said.
“Some people would definitely be back in here if they didn’t have that support to help them with those things.”
Chris said some inmates have spent long periods in prison and they find life on the outside very difficult.
“It gets too hard and complex for some people, and they think it’s easier to be in gaol, but now they have someone to call for help and guidance. It’s early days, but there’s already signs that the program is working.”
Chris believes it is possible to reduce reoffending if the right supports are there.
“There is often pushback on trying new things, but unless you try things like this program, the reoffending numbers won’t change,” Chris said.
“We give them hope and show them they’re not hopeless and we’re having some influence once they get back into the community.”
Emily said some inmates had never had anyone to listen to them or speak to them with respect.
“I love this job because I believe change is possible. Every little thing we do over time plants a seed.”
Rachel said the team had one common goal – to ensure inmates don’t return to prison.
“Everyone makes bad choices, and a prison sentence shouldn’t define you. People should be able to move on with support and stop the cycle of reoffending,” Rachel said.
“We want to empower them to be the best person they can be.”
Lidya joined the team as she’s passionate about stopping inmates returning to prison.
“We are showing them there is another life if they want it. The support we provide makes them independent and confident that they can do it.”
Parklea Correctional Centre is operated by MTC Australia on behalf of Corrective Services NSW.