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Natasha

Natasha Woods

Year of Award: 2015 Award State: Tasmania Arts - Performing > General
Legal > Penal And Parole
To investigate arts in prisons particularly its capacity to reduce recidivism and produce savings - UK, USA, New Zealand
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I have worked in a prison environment for most of my adult life. It was during my last temporary appointment, a position in head office at New South Wales Corrective Services, that I decided prison was the right place for me. Thank goodness it was in a working capacity. I applied to become a Correctional Officer in mid-1996. The process was long and competitive. I got the opportunity to work as a civilian staff member at the new Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre while I waited. Finally, I won a position as Probationary Correctional officer and went to the academy at Brush Farm. I was 22.

Prison work is a very eye-opening experience: ‘Oh the tales I could tell, the things I have seen’. I am not alone; thousands of wonderful people work in the Australian prison system, a system that most people are happy to know exists but also happy to forget about. It is hard, thankless and at times very dangerous.

The inmates who are placed in a prison system are there for a good reason; the State has decided by way of our judicial system that deprivation of liberty is the right response to their wrongdoings.

My job is to provide a duty of care to each one and to help in the missions and values of the organisation.

This is usually to reduce offending behaviour, through rehabilitation.

I have always taken this side of my job very seriously. I worked as a Correctional Officer in NSW for 13 years. Six years ago I decided that Tasmania was the place for me and my family. I no longer wanted the role of custodian, and that of Sports and Recreation Officer presented itself. Since then I have enjoyed offering sporting, arts and craft programs to inmates. Programs include airbrushing , fine arts, sewing, card making, theatre and music. To bring these programs I have worked alongside community members with real talent and skills; most do it as volunteers and gain as much from the experience as the inmates do. I believe these programs enrich inmates’ lives, allow an outlet for thought and emotion, and encourage pro-social modelling; they also provide portable work skills.

In 2016 I will go on a fact-finding mission to discover which programs work towards reducing offending behaviour, and how we can creatively find funds to help pay for them. This journey will take me to New Zealand, the USA and UK. I will bring back knowledge that I hope to use in Tasmania and the mainland. I have a passion for my work and I hope I have the capacity to infect others with this passion. 

Excerpt from “Bringing Knowledge Home” published by the Churchill Fellows Association of Tasmania (2016) 

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