A prison officer from the Wellington Correctional centre admits before she began her career, she had a negative view of people who'd been to prison.
Senior Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Sears shared her thoughts in episode three of a new podcast series, Behind the Walls: Daily Life, which for the first time takes listeners on an inside journey into NSW prisons and parole offices.
"Before I joined corrections I was a mum of four kids living on a farm, from a very traditional middle-class family," Superintendent Sears said.
"You don't know that this portion of society exists, and I'd never really had an experience with them - never lived with them, never socialised with them, I didn't ever think about them - and I had a negative attitude about inmates.
"But once you join corrections, you realise that they're human beings who have had a very damaged, upsetting, soul-destroying upbringing. They don't have any support networks, their family has broken down and for some of them, they have no way of paying for food."
The podcast features interviews with 30 correctional officers, including those from Silverwater's Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre, Long Bay, Bathurst, Lithgow, Kirkconnell, Cooma, Macquarie, Dawn De Loas and Emu Plains correctional centres.
Ms Sears told podcast host and crime writer Michael Duffy that if people want to live in safe communities, without crime, then it was critical to provide support and rehabilitation pathways for inmates.
"If you treat someone like an animal, they will act like an animal. We release these people back into everyone's neighbourhoods whether you like it or not, that's our justice system," she said.
"Essentially our job as a prison officer is to make our community safer, and in order to do that we need to give these inmates as much chance as possible to re-enter society and be safe, because they will be living next door to us.
"It's amazing that with a bit of respect and a bit of 'OK, this is what we can offer you, this is how you can change this, or this is what we can do to support you', how they will absorb that and take it on board.
"We are not giving them any more than what they deserve or any more than anyone else on the outside deserves, we are just giving our community as a whole, the chance to be safe."
Episode three of Behind the Walls: Daily Life will be available on podcast apps on March 25. New episodes are released every Thursday.
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