Ellysha, Prison Officer

Joanna Psaros

20 January 2021

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

1. What is your age, where were you born, and where do you currently live?

I am 21, born in Queensland and currently living in Victoria.

2. In your own words, what does your role involve?

My role involves maintaining safety and security of the prison, however it also heavily involves attending to prisoner requests and assisting with their rehabilitation whilst they are incarcerated.

3. Do you work in a men’s or women’s prison? In your understanding, what are the differences, if any, between the two institutions?

I work in a men’s prison.

4. What level of security institution do you work in?

I work at a maximum security prison.

5. What misconceptions do people have about prison officers, and the prison system in general?

There are so many misconceptions about prison officers, mostly being that you have to be a strong male, which certainly not the case. Other misconceptions include that prison officers are armed; in Victoria we are not armed with any form of weapon, however there are specialist groups that are trained to handle weapons. Also that prisoners always want to attack officers. It is very rare that an officer would ever be attacked by a prisoner, majority of incidents are prisoners attacking other prisoners. The last misconception is that there is always something crazy happening. 95% of the time nothing happens, and the other 5% is when it can get a bit chaotic. And there’s lots and lots of paperwork involved! As for the prison system, I believe TV shows and movies often enhance those general misconceptions. In my opinion prison really isn’t as terrifying as they make it out to be.

6. Justice Action, amongst others, is a non-profit that advocates for the rights of prisoners. For example, one of their successful campaigns was for the access to computers in cells. What are your thoughts on groups such as this?

I think that any groups that advocate for rights is amazing. I believe that prisoners should receive what they are entitled to as per their rights, however they also have privileges, which I believe it is also appropriate to take some of those privileges away, obviously depending on the circumstances.

7. Do you believe in the rehabilitation of prisoners, or do recidivism rates speak for themselves?

Yes I do believe in rehabilitation, to a point. I believe that some prisoners genuinely want to improve themselves, and I know there are a few that have left the prison system and have not returned. 

However I know there are also many that have had multiple terms of imprisonment, and are not interested in any form of rehabilitation. Part of our job as prison officers is to manage a case load of prisoners and to help them achieve goals and work towards rehabilitation. Some like to get involved in case management, and others not so much. I believe that the prisoners who are genuinely willing to make changes, will make them. However on the other hand with the ones that continue to reoffend over and over, usually no matter what you do to try and help them they will continue to end up back in the system, and unfortunately there’s not much that one person can do to change that.

8. Films and televisions would have us believe that sexual assault is rampant in prisons. In your experience, is this the case? If so, how does this make you feel, particularly as a woman?

Male on male sexual assault does happen, however I believe not nearly as much as it is depicted in TV shows and movies. Being a young woman I would’ve thought that male prisoners would be more likely to make and make sexual remarks towards me, however I have actually had no issues with that yet.

9. In December last year CCTV footage showed a prison officer threatening Aboriginal teenagers, stating “I’m right in the mood to lose my job tonight and I don’t mind losing it over belting the f*** out of one of you little c***s.”

On a personal level, how do you feel to hear these reports? Is this a case of a few bad apples, or do you believe there is an institutional problem?

To hear about reports of that happening sicken me, I think that’s disgusting behaviour and it is unacceptable. I do believe that the media jumps on stories like this, which is great because this behaviour needs to be called out and addressed, however they fail to report on all the good things prison officers do. In my experience I have never met another officer that would act or behave in such a way, and behaviours such as the one reported, is the reason why amazing officers are being badly represented.

10. Have you ever feared for your safety at work?

I have never feared for my safety at work.

11. Can you describe the relationships, if any, that are formed between inmates and officers?

There are many great relationships formed between prisoners and officers, however without overstepping the professional boundaries. Rapport and relationship building is extremely important in our role as prison officers, because it helps prisoners respect us and vice versa, and at the end of the day helps us do our jobs more effectively. It also helps us to encourage prisoners to maintain and build positive relationships with other people when they leave the prison system as well.

12. Finally, what makes you happy?

Lots of things make me happy. In general, my friends, family, my job, life. What’s there not to be happy about? 😊

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