Inmates in the priviledged section of the Maryborough Correctional Centre.
Inmates in the priviledged section of the Maryborough Correctional Centre. Robyne Cuerel

Behind the bars - an inside look at the Maryborough prison

THERE are no guard-towers, no electric chairs and nothing resembles scenes from the movies The Green Mile or The Longest Yard.

Beyond the wire fences, metal detectors and heavy doors, the prisoners live, almost like anyone on the outside.

The Chronicle was recently granted unprecedented access to the Maryborough Correctional Centre (MCC).

The ability to enjoy the great outdoors is obviously gone but these inmates fill their days with productivity.

In the manufacturing workshop, farm gates roll off the production line, each one welded and cleaned lovingly.

The Queensland Corrective Services has a focus on Pathways to Reduce Crime by holding prisoners accountable for their crimes they have committed and actions within the centre, while providing them the opportunity to make reparation for their offences.

MCC Centre general manager Trevor Craig offers inmates a "carrot-stick" system.

"What we say to them is if they are well behaved they can have the carrot, which are privileges - and if they're not they get the stick, detention," he said.

Detention, in a place where they are already detained, means solitary confinement.

Mr Craig said the philosophy at the prison had evolved over the years.

"They're not just a number to us, they're all a face with a story," he said.

The correctional officers hate being called guards and don't walk around with bats or guns.

If a confrontation does occur a team specially trained in verbal communication swings into action.

Offender development manager Darren Ball said not all prisoners were doomed.

"There's a real chance for rehabilitation," he said.

"We work with them in here to get a job when they leave and once they do an external community group will keep an eye on them to make sure they're turning up for work and that sort of thing."

In Queensland 55.8% of those admitted into custody reported that they were unemployed while about a third of all offenders have an education level lower than Year 10. More than 80% have less than Year 12.

By providing educational opportunities for prisoners and delivering training programs such as the Tyre Fitting Program, MCC assists prisoners transition into the community by making them job ready and providing assistance in finding them employment will reduce recidivism and provide safer communities.

During the tour, several of the inmates praised the centre's management and their approach to the inmates.

"The best management Queensland's ever seen," one of the inmates shouted.

There's a real sense of community in the centre.

"If I do the right thing they will provide the better quality pencils for my drawings," he said.

"I've been in a few prisons before and this is the best one."

At cell block S5 the prisoners proudly promoted their art they've been working on.

Inmates who had never picked up a paintbrush in their years of criminal activity now paint wonderful and detailed portraits.

There was a different taste in the air when my photographer and I left the prison.

Although these inmates are working at a second chance, they are still prisoners and they've lost their freedom.

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