ASK the Coffs Harbour Community Corrections team to describe their work with offenders on parole and they’ll say it’s like juggling eggs while walking on a tightrope.
If you can keep them all up in the air at once you know you’re doing your job right.
Unit leaders Stuart Davidson, Amy Riddle and Chantel Smith are among 10,000 Corrective Services NSW staff being celebrated on National Corrections Day, Friday 15 January for their commitment to community safety and reducing reoffending.
CSNSW 15-year veteran Stuart Davidson says a shift over the years towards prioritising access to programs and services is paying off.
“An offender we supervise said he wished he’d met our team decades ago because he wouldn’t be in the mess he’s in today,” Stuart says.
“He is an example of someone who’s been in and out of the system, fighting addiction and responsible for domestic violence incidents.
“Now he’s turning his life around.”
The West High Street office employs 18 staff, including manager Kathy Moloney, three Unit Leaders, nine Community Corrections Officers, three administrative assistants, three field officers and a community volunteer.
The team works with offenders on community service, State Parole Authority and court issued orders and with inmates serving custodial sentences transitioning into the community.
Successfully managing an offender’s reintegration reduces their likelihood of committing another crime and ultimately keeps the community safe.
With a degree in social welfare and psychology Chantel Smith knows success isn’t clear-cut.
“For some offenders change does happen overnight, but for most it is gradual and dotted with small wins, which are important to acknowledge,” Chantel says.
“I had an offender apologise to me the other day, regretful for his behaviour four years ago when I was his case manager.
“That recognition is the first step towards rehabilitation.”
As a Coffs Harbour local of 25 years Amy Riddle agrees, saying the focus on the cycle of change and why reoffending happens has made a huge difference.
“Most can’t believe we do unscheduled home visits with offenders in the community.
“We are the frontline working face-to-face with complex cases, in people’s homes, with their families and all the surprises and chaos that come with turning up unannounced,” Amy says.
“We do that because we want to get to the source of their reoffending, not just considering how an offender did what they did, but why and what were the circumstances.”
The 2021 National Corrections Day theme is Working together to reduce reoffending, focusing on the ways our staff assist offenders through programs, education, promoting a good workplace culture and positive interactions.