Complex operating at full capacity

The Macquarie Correctional Centre has surpassed its fourth week operating at full capacity and staff have nothing but praise for the rapid-build model and its focus on reintegrating inmates into society.

Governor of Macquarie Correctional Centre, Jason Hodges, said it is predominately smooth sailing at the pilot complex built as part of the NSW Government’s $3.8 billion Prison Bed Capacity Program.

“It is a maximum security correctional centre so we do have incidents, but what we have found is in comparison to another similar size centre we have had three fold less incidents,” Mr Hodges said.

While the long-term results of the new system won’t truly be known until data from a 12-month study conducted by Corrective Services NSW’s Evaluations Research Branch is assessed, Mr Hodges said he has observed an incomparable change in inmates’ attitude.

He attributes the improvement to the new model which delivers structured days and engages inmates through employment and educational programs.

“That’s where we’re going to see results,” Mr Hodges said.

“Inmates want to address their behaviour, get out and change their ways. We’re trying to get them to address their offending behaviour before they’re released so when they get back into the community they’re actually contributing to the community. 

“We’re seeing a positive energy in this centre.”

Acting Assessment and Planning Officer Education, Fiona Dunn, said inmates have shown an overwhelming interest in the educational programs on offer, proudly adding the centre had its first group of graduates in Certificate I in Business last month. 

“We are putting funds into these extra programs but people are coming here wanting to do them and wanting to succeed,” she said.

Ms Dunn believes by giving inmates qualifications and confidence through a variety of programs that NSW will see a drop in the rate of re-offending. 

Work is currently in place to build a cafeteria at the complex, offering employment to 30 inmates. The facility will allow for the introduction of a barista course which can be complimented by other courses. The opportunity will be incorporated into the system’s vigorous employment program which sees 200 inmates work at industries for up to five hours per day.

“From talking to the inmates, they’re really excited that this model delivers them an opportunity to not go through the same mundane routines that are in different jails, that they get an opportunity to break away from their previous cycle,” Mr Hodges said.

Senior Correctional Officer at the Macquarie Correctional Centre, Belinda Ostini, has worked within the industry for just shy of a decade. During those nine years she has worked in prisons at Bathurst, Lithgow and Wellington, and believes the new dormitory-style prison is the way of the future.

“There is no comparison really, it is completely different,” she said. “From the structure of days, to more accessibility cooking, programs to better themselves, work and downtime – there is less frustration, there is a good positive attitude in here.”