Veteran prison guard tells stories from his career guarding those behind bars
Veteran prison guard tells stories from his career guarding those behind bars

Revealed: Life inside women’s jail

When Jack Mahoney opened a cell door in Silverwater jail and found a startled new inmate crouched in ­attack position, the unfazed corrective officer simply asked: "Tea or coffee?"

"Nobody's ever made me a cuppa," the burly 120kg prisoner said before slowly putting down a pen and creeping out of his cell.

The 23-year veteran of Corrective Services NSW who now works with minimum security female inmates at Emu Plains jail, told The Daily Telegraph that engaging with prisoners wasn't ­always prioritised in his line of work.

 

Jack Mahoney at the Aboriginal Women's Employment and Training Hub, at Emu Plains Correctional Centre. Picture:Justin Lloyd
Jack Mahoney at the Aboriginal Women's Employment and Training Hub, at Emu Plains Correctional Centre. Picture:Justin Lloyd

 

Some of the women in custody in a share house, at Emu Plains Correctional Centre. Picture:Justin Lloyd
Some of the women in custody in a share house, at Emu Plains Correctional Centre. Picture:Justin Lloyd

 

"He said 'tea' so I went and made it, I sat the tea down and he came slowly creeping out of his cell … from there I had good rapport with the young fella," Mr Mahoney said.

"When I came into the jail environment it was about locking them away ... making sure they go into the cell alive and come out of the cell alive.

"Now, this is the new step forward in corrections."

However, it took time for Mr Mahoney to get used to working in lower-level security facilities compared to the harder jails he worked at earlier in his career and there was some confusion one day when he saw a prisoner upside down in a bin at Silverwater.

 

An inmate’s room in a share house at Emu Plains Correctional Centre. Picture:Justin Lloyd
An inmate’s room in a share house at Emu Plains Correctional Centre. Picture:Justin Lloyd

 

"I've come around a corner and I've seen these two green legs hanging out of a bin, I yelled at the inmate 'What do you think you're doing?' and the other executive officer actually said to me 'Jack, that's his job - he cleans the bins'.

"In maximum security we would have been dragging him out thinking what the hell's going on here?" he said.

Mr Mahoney now heads up the Aboriginal Women's Employment and Training Hub at Emu Plains, which establishes employment pathways for up to 60 inmates a year.

One inmate in her early 30s, who will have spent more than two years behind bars before her sentence finishes this July, said the hub had helped her develop new skills.

"I've done more in the last two and a half years than I have in the last 20 years, getting skills up my sleeve," she said. "I'm confident to go out there and face the world."

 

SERVING UP A SECOND CHANCE FOR INMATES

 

Inmates at Emu Plains Correctional Centre are turning hospitality into hope and training to build houses and rebuild lives.

The Daily Telegraph was invited inside the minimum security jail for an exclusive look to see how female inmates are gaining qualifications in hospitality and construction through the facility's Aboriginal Employment and Training Hub.

One inmate said training while at the women-only facility had given her purpose to do something for her future.

 

Some of the women in custody with a Training Hub teacher, at Emu Plains Correctional Centre. Picture:Justin Lloyd
Some of the women in custody with a Training Hub teacher, at Emu Plains Correctional Centre. Picture:Justin Lloyd

 

Many prisoners say they try hard to get something out of jail to prepare them for life on the outside. Picture: Justin Lloyd
Many prisoners say they try hard to get something out of jail to prepare them for life on the outside. Picture: Justin Lloyd

 

"(Being in jail) is not how they say; I think it's (about how an inmate) wants it to be and how they want to do their time," she said.

"Most of us like to do things … like courses and stuff to get things out of it and to learn more, to be ready to get out.

"My time has flown. I've been here for seven months now and it's just kept me occupied."

 

Originally published as Revealed: Life inside women's jail


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