The experience and professionalism of staff at Greenough Regional Prison will be expanded yet again with the graduation today of 18 prison officer recruits.
Assisting Justice Minister Kevin Minson said the 18 officers, 14 men and four women, had completed an intensive 10-week training course and would start work over the next few days.
Mr Minson said the graduates came from a range of working backgrounds with experience as bus drivers, butchers, in small business and nursing.
The staff had been recruited locally to give greater stability to the prison service and to create opportunities for local families.
The new officers would help staff the prison's new $4 million wing, which was opened earlier this month by the Minister.
The 52-bed facility includes a 20-bed self-care unit with its own kitchen, a prisoner programs room, staff facility and upgraded kitchen - increasing the prison's standard bed-holding capacity to 175.
Mr Minson praised the dedication of the prison's existing staff who would act as mentors to the new graduates.
"A lot has been said about the changing role of prison officers and that is because a lot has happened in the past decade," he said.
"We now refer to prison `officers' rather than `guards', because the responsibilities of a prison officer now extend way beyond the role of custody.
"Officers today play a leading role in the care and welfare of prisoners. They help to provide opportunities for prisoners to rehabilitate themselves and actively and formally encourage participation in various treatment programs for anger management, substance abuse and to help prisoners address their offending behaviour."
Greenough's latest graduates have studied communication and conflict resolution, basic psychology and sociology. They are also trained to be on the alert for signs that prisoners may attempt to harm themselves or others.
"The work of prison officers in securing and assisting prisoners to break the offending cycle is complemented by the role of the Prison Support Officer," Mr Minson said.
"Greenough is privileged in that it originally trialled the support officer concept where prisoners receive training and support in peer support. Greenough's staff work as a team and this benefits not just the prison, but the community as a whole."
Media contact: Hugh Ryan 322 6529