In their three decades as correctional officers, Steve Young and Nigel Webb have never seen a letter quite like the one that landed on their desk last week.
The note – handwritten in a neat script – was addressed to Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin and praised the wonderful work of the South Coast Correctional Centre officers.
But unlike most well-earned pats on the back, this one came from an inmate.
“I feel compelled to put in a good word for Senior Assistant Superintendent Young and Assistant Superintendent Webb. Their treatment towards me has been very firm but fair,” inmate Peter wrote to Mr Severin ahead of his release from custody.
“Mr Young and Mr Webb have handled most of my important affairs for the past 18 months or more and [the affairs were] always dealt with in a most professional manner.
“I really appreciate the help and understanding from both of these officers. While they are in charge, your jail at Nowra on the South Coast will be held in good stead.”
After serving two-and-a-half years in prison for drug supply, the 40-year-old wanted to thank the men who helped prepare him to live a more positive life in the community after his release.
The officers, who have more than 60 years’ experience combined, said it was uncommon to receive such vocal praise from an inmate.
“It certainly came as a shock to me to see that he had written this letter – it’s not really the sort of thing you expect from an inmate,” Mr Young said.
“We always try to help inmates where we can – he wasn’t receiving any special treatment - but I’ve never had one thank me in this way.”
Mr Webb, who has worked in correctional centres around the country, said it was rewarding to know he had made such a positive impact on the man’s life.
“A lot of correctional officers come into the job wanting to make a difference,” he said.
“So it is very rewarding when you find inmates who genuinely want to rehabilitate themselves and you’re able to help them work towards that.”
Mr Severin thanked the men for their hard work, which often goes unnoticed by the community because it happens behind prison walls.
“Mr Young and Mr Webb are among more than 7000 dedicated frontline staff who supervise offenders and keep our community safe every day,” Mr Severin said.
“Their commitment to helping inmates turn their lives around should be applauded.”