Ben Preston is Grafton Correctional Centre’s Mr Fix-it and Overseer of 15 inmates, who work in grounds and building maintenance at the prison.
The qualified plumber and roofer was self-employed before joining Corrective Services NSW in 2015, where he now spends his days passing on his tradie skills to inmates.
“Overseers spend a lot of time working one-on-one with offenders. In my case, we’re doing as much maintenance work on the prison and the grounds as we possibly can, and if something needs to be done I’m the person who gets the call,” Mr Preston says.
Mr Preston is among the more than 9,000 CSNSW staff being celebrated for their commitment to community safety on National Corrections Day, Friday 18 January. CSNSW staff includes custodial officers, inmate services and programs staff, psychologists and parole officers.
The 34-year-old, who enjoys fishing and camping trips in his leisure time, said it’s important to have good rapport with inmates when you’re working towards a common goal.
“Corrective Services Industries is a business and we need to get the job done. Some of the inmates have never worked a day in their life but once they start they end up enjoying the sense of purpose and productivity that employment provides,” Mr Preston says.
“Rather than being idle while in custody, these inmates are getting a leg-up on the employment ladder and hopefully discovering a new path for the future.”
Mr Preston says around 134 inmates are housed at the centre, with many of them gaining certificates, traineeships and qualifications in agriculture, construction, cabinet making, OH&S, white card, working at heights and forklift driving.
“Before I became an overseer and was on the outside looking in, I guessed that all inmates were bad. Now I know there are a lot of good people locked-up, who just did something stupid,” Mr Preston says.
The 2019 National Corrections Day theme is Working Corrections, focussing on inmate industries and the work of Community Corrections officers, who supervise offenders on court-ordered community work.
Across the state, there are about 650 Corrective Services Industries’ staff, who oversee inmates undertaking work, training and other qualifications to help reintegrate them into the community and reduce reoffending.