Long Bay jail walk through and portrait of guards
Long Bay jail walk through and portrait of guards

Wardens have jail in the genes

WORKING in Australia's hardest prison is a family affair for Patrick Irwin, who is the fourth generation to patrol the corridorsof the notorious Long Bay jail.

The 26-year-old is just 18 months into the job but follows his father, grandfather and great-grandfather into the prison officer profession.

Patrick said he regularly went to his father for advice, which included dressing well to set a good example to the inmates.

Prison office Patrick Irwin with his father Wayne. Picture: Richard Dobson
Prison office Patrick Irwin with his father Wayne. Picture: Richard Dobson

"You've got to come here and iron your shirt, shave - everything as much as you can because you are their example," he said.

However, Patrick said the prisons were a different place now than to what his forefathers had experienced.

"It's all about rehabilitation now, so we look to try and change people a lot more - whereas my grandfather was more like 'here's your bread, here's your water, lock the door see you tomorrow kind of thing,"

A cell in Long Bay. Picture: Richard Dobson
A cell in Long Bay. Picture: Richard Dobson

"A lot of these guys get out so it's all about trying to change society and trying to make society a better place."

Mr Irwin is among 10,000 Corrective Services NSW staff who will be celebrated as part of National Corrections Day today.

To mark the milestone The Daily Telegraph was offered an exclusive look inside the walls of "the Bay".

Guards outside an exercise area of one the prison blocks at Long Bay.Picture: Richard Dobson
Guards outside an exercise area of one the prison blocks at Long Bay.Picture: Richard Dobson

Patrick's father Wayne was a prison officer at the same jail for almost 35 years before recently retiring.

During his time at the jail he worked with some of the state's most famous prisoners, including gangster Arthur "Neddy" Smith.

Another memorable inmate was former Corrective Services Minister Rex Jackson, who was sent to jail himself for taking bribesto release inmates early.

NSW convicted murderer gangster Arthur Stanley
NSW convicted murderer gangster Arthur Stanley "Neddy" Smith with wife Deborah and Harvey Jones Dec 1982.

"Being the minister he was in protection, he was quite quiet and when he got through to minimum security he worked in thecabinet shop as a clerk," Wayne said.

But Wayne said being a prison officer was not without its downsides, including having hot food thrown at him and copping apunch to the face while breaking up a fight between two inmates.

Former NSW Corrective Services Minister Rex Jackson is led into court in handcuffs on 1 September 1987.
Former NSW Corrective Services Minister Rex Jackson is led into court in handcuffs on 1 September 1987.

"The punch in the nose, I was actually protecting another inmate and the inmate accidentally hit me and he looked like a startledcat when he realised he hit an officer," Wayne said.

The experiences meant Wayne had some good advice for his son. "The main advice I give to him is to remember he is a number, that's really what you are," Wayne said.

"It's better to keep a low profile and do your job the best you can than to do the wrong thing and be big noting yourself."

Long Bay Governor Shannon Kay said National Corrections Day was important to understanding the role prisons play.

Mr Kay is banking on keeping the Irwin family tradition going for at least one more generation. "He's four generations there, so no doubt his children will come through and join us as well, we'll have a family industry," he said.



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