St Heliers Correctional Centre ‘chef’ Brendan Reynolds cooking up important life skills for inmates

St Heliers Corrective Services Industries Overseer Brendan Reynolds
St Heliers Corrective Services Industries Overseer Brendan Reynolds

BRENDAN Reynolds often cries on the job. 

Not because he’s sad, but because he oversees inmates processing two tonnes of onions per week at St Heliers Correctional Centre at Muswellbrook.

The former chef looks after a team of 30 inmates at the pre-release working prison and always keeps plenty of eye drops on hand to help them combat the lingering smell of onions. 

Mr Reynolds is among the more than 9000 Corrective Services NSW staff being celebrated for their commitment to community safety on National Corrections Day (Friday, January 18).

CSNSW employees include custodial officers, inmate services and programs staff, psychologists and parole officers.

The 35-year-old transitioned from Juvenile Justice to CSNSW in 2014 and says he became a Corrective Services Industries Overseer so he could help the people who need it most. 

“The skills inmates learn through CSI are skills they will have for life,” Mr Reynolds said.

“They gain knowledge they can use upon release to have a positive impact in the community.

“The inmates process 10 tonnes of produce each week, making us the biggest primary producer of vegetables for CSNSW. 

“We take food from the paddock to the plate – dispatching produce to prisons right across the state for inmate meals.”

CSI at St Heliers has a 500-hectare vegetable and cattle farm, allowing inmates to gain skills or qualifications in vegetable processing, food services, agriculture, engineering, furniture making, and building and ground maintenance. 

Mr Reynolds said his role was a rewarding one that required good rapport with inmates.

“Some of the inmates can’t read, write or speak English so it’s important to deliver lots of positive reinforcement and to have a hands-on approach when it comes to teaching,” he explained.

The 2019 National Corrections Day theme is Working Corrections, focussing on inmate industries and the work of Community Corrections officers, who supervise offenders on court-ordered community work. 

Across the state, there are about 650 Corrective Services Industries’ staff, who oversee inmates undertaking work, training and other qualifications to help reintegrate them into the community and reduce reoffending.