Law Week 2018 Justice Journeys

Custodial correctional officer

No day is the same for our staff who participated in the 2016 Justice Journey’s program. Gain an insight into their role and responsibilities within the justice and legal sector and read about their experiences.

Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) set strategy, policy and standards for the management of the state’s system of correctional facilities. They also develop programs for the humane containment, management and rehabilitation of prisoners and the community-based supervision of offenders.

The QCS Academy, based in Wacol, trains Custodial Correctional Officers (CCO) whose role it is to ensure safety and security within correctional facilities, and to assist in the rehabilitation and case management of prisoners through encouragement to engage in programs and other activities whilst in custody. Officers work with prisoners to ensure they are adequately prepared for their release to the community.

We follow three new QCS recruits through the ten week Custodial Officers Entry Program (COEP). The program focusses on legislation, safety, security, prisoner management and skills such as communication, control and restraint, control room management and firearms. Watch our three-part series following three QCS Academy trainees.

Watch our three-part series following three QCS Academy trainees.

For anyone interested in becoming a CCO, please visit the  Manpower website.

At the completion of the COEP, trainees have approximately nine months whilst on the job to expand on the skills and knowledge taught, to complete the Certificate III in Correctional Practice - Custodial.

There are many opportunities and diverse roles within QCS, including Nola’s, who has been a staff member for over 15 years at the Princess Alexandra Hospital Secure Unit (PAHSU). This unit is specifically for Queensland prisoners (both men and women) requiring general hospitalisation and treatment. Nola shares insight into her daily responsibilities and her unique perspective of the job.

I’m part of the Escort and Security Branch (ESB) team. We’re a tight team, we understand that each of us bring different strengths to the job, and we work with that. The staff cover the following areas within the unit: inpatients; outpatients; foyer; control room; utilities and hospital escorts.

We help ensure that medical treatment is received in a safe and secure way for medical staff and prisoners from all over Queensland.

As a woman I believe I have a lot to offer in this role. I think women bring an ability to sense the behaviours of prisoners, particularly when agitation is building, in order to diffuse problems before they happen. We deal with a lot of mental health issues with prisoners though, and sometimes no amount of rational talking can circumnavigate the risk of violence erupting; but working as a team keeps us all safe.

I really enjoy working with the medical staff; I have a lot of respect for them and the responsibility we have to ensure their safety is a huge part of our role.

I enjoy the diversity of the role and the movement around the hospital during my shift.  It has a very different feel to prisons. Our work is very hands-on; we work closely with the medical staff and prisoners.

We escort prisoners to the surgery when necessary and have to gown-up when we take them in. We stay put until they are under anaesthetic, provide external security and are in recovery when they wake up.  When we have a high profile prisoner, we have to consider the safety needs of the public within the hospital and for this reason the surgery times are never released until they are ready to go. The security is very organised, interfaced with police and we are trained to manage complex situations.

I started out working in retail security. I then followed a friend into working in the ESB Courts Unit before starting here, where I’ve been for the last 15 years.  I love my current role and compared to working in the public space, I find there are fewer unknowns—you have a greater sense of who people are and what risks and behaviours need to be managed.

The shifts are 12 hours long but there is a great balance of days on and off which really allows for a good work/life balance.

I’ve had great training for the job, but I think being a mother has equipped me with the skills I use most in this role.  I have a strong sense of compassion and I know that the people I work with could be anyone’s child.