PRISONERS at Tamworth Correctional Centre love watching The Bachelor.
Behind the large green door, high brick fences and watch tower is a microcosm of culture.
Men grip the metal fence inside, in prison greens they’re hard to distinguish as they pace up and down a squared-off area cheekily named ‘The Longyard’.
“You have to have thick skin,” TCC acting governor Stephen Taylor said.
“There needs to be a sense of humour, life skills and be able to communicate with people in stress.”
Prisoners are placed in either minimum or medium security, with an average stay of three months.
Those in minimum security live in small demountables once used by the media at the 2000 Olympics.
If they follow the rules, they’re allowed to leave the imposing four walls of prison to mow the lawns outside.
The last successful escape was in the 90’s, when an offender cut through a mesh fence and broke free.
Between the high brick walls and the cages is the ‘sterile zone’, prisoners aren’t allowed there unless they are being transferred to court.
For most, the prospect of a job in prison is a welcome distraction.
Six cells are randomly searched every day. Sometimes, contraband phones as small as a thumb are found, most often it’s drugs.
“We have a lot of detox in here,” Mr Taylor said.
“Our hope is to rehabilitate them, if it’s just one percent that change then that’s a winning start.
“But it is frustrating when you see them come back, we might have an inmate out for two days before they’re back again.”
Corrections officers rely on each other for physical protection and emotional support.
The newest addition to the team is therapy dog Grace, owned by the jail’s resident psychiatrist.
“With the stress of the job it’s just awesome to give Grace a pat sometimes and relax,” Mr Taylor said.
“And she makes such a difference with the inmates, when she’s here we’ll barely have issues – she really calms people down.”
From pizza franchisee to Tamworth prison guard
Work as a prison guard is not for the faint of heart, but their backgrounds are as colourful as the inmates they keep.
National Corrections Day is on Friday January 18, and in Tamworth more than 30 brave officers have stepped up to the plate.
In charge of vocational training for offenders, Tamworth Correctional Centre senior overseer Martin Rushby used to own a pizza franchise.
He gave it all up for something a little more challenging.
“My first day in corrections was interesting, they teach you a lot at the academy but you walk in and it’s a lot different, it’s a harsh environment,” he said.
“But it’s like a big family and everyone in blue stands up for each other.
“You do feel proud when an inmate you’ve worked with goes on to get a job on the outside.”
In Mr Rushby’s unit, inmates do welding, cooking and cleaning, the best paid job earns $70 a week while standard roles pay $25.
Prisoners can learn a Cert II in Engineering and the products they weld go back into the local community or for rapid build jails elsewhere.
Mr Rushby is among 9000 other officers that will be celebrated next Friday, for him the most rewarding part of the job is the friendships he’s made with his colleagues.
The theme of National Corrections Day this year is Working Corrections, focusing on Corrective Services Industries staff and the work of officers who supervise offenders on court-ordered community work.