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Bathurst inmates back lending helping hand to community

Bathurst Correctional Centre’s inmate work crew is back providing vital grounds-maintenance to the community, after COVID-19 restrictions prevented them from working outside prison since December.

Senior trade overseer Scott Keen said both the offenders and the organisations they support were pleased the program has returned, giving inmates an opportunity to gain skills while helping the community.

“It has been great to get back out there and support these not-for-profits and community groups, who have really struggled to find the time or volunteers to do grounds maintenance or other work while community projects were suspended,” Mr Keen said.     

“The crew and I have built strong partnerships with a number of organisations, so it’s really satisfying for us to give back to the community while helping lighten their loads.

“This type of work is a good opportunity for inmates to learn new skills and develop a strong work ethic, which will help them when they’re seeking work post-release.”

Mr Keen’s community projects team includes up to eight carefully selected minimum-security inmates. The crew recently attended the Holy Trinity church at Kelso to tend to the cemetery and surrounding grounds.

Minister Tim Fogo said the church would be lost without the support of the men’s work.

“Most of our parishioners are aged over 70 and we just don’t have the physical man-power to keep up with the maintenance, so having the work crew back is absolutely brilliant – it has changed our life significantly,” Mr Fogo said.

“During the pandemic we could do some mowing around the church and the ground but not all of it – we had grass here that was above knee-height, so it has been fantastic having them help maintain the grounds.  I can’t thank them enough.

“The men are very efficient and polite – if they weren’t wearing green you wouldn’t know they’re from prison.”

Minister for Corrections Geoff Lee met the inmate work crew during a recent visit to Bathurst Correctional Centre and was impressed with the community projects program.

“It’s great to see programs like these where inmates can develop vital skills they can use to gain employment once their sentences end,” he said.

“Being able to help inmates step into work once they leave prison is an important part of the Premier’s Priorities of reducing recidivism in the prison population.

“This program is also a great way for inmates to help out their local communities.”

The centre’s community projects team has 15 permanent work locations in the Bathurst municipality, including the Riding for the Disabled Association, Bathurst light car club, Orange kart club and various church grounds in Rockley, Trunkey Creek and Sofala.

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