In his 28-year career in the NSW prison service, Long Bay Correctional Complex general manager Pat Aboud has locked up notorious Sydney criminals like Roger Rogerson, Abe Saffron and Neddy Smith – and he has seen his own cousin in jail, as well as his former high school principal, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Aboud sees the worst of the world, working among bleak, desperate men who have done things that are barely possible to live with, for themselves or their victims.
Yet every week, he devotes hours of his own time to helping younger inmates, particularly through the Clean Slate Without Prejudice program, which aims to lift Aboriginal youth out of the cycle of reoffending and reincarceration that feeds so much anger and despair in Indigenous communities.
Over lunch – an old-school hamburger with beetroot – I realise what kind of a man Aboud might really be. Amid all the misery and hopelessness, he still sees the possibility of redemption. He desperately wants to give the best inmates another chance and he spends much of his spare time trying to help the men he keeps locked up.
As part of the Clean Slate Without Prejudice program, prisoners are allowed to leave the jail three times a week for boxing training in inner-city Redfern.
At first, Clean Slate targeted local at-risk youth for early-morning boxing sessions where police officers hold the pads. Another police officer, Luke Freudenstein built the program with Shane Phillips, an Aboriginal elder and CEO of the Tribal Warrior organisation, and other community leaders.
Reoffending rates are down in Redfern, and Freudenstein says the program works because the youth see that their elders respect the police, and that the police care about the youth – and “if they see that we care, it’s amazing what they’ll do”.
“We’ve got a great team,” says Aboud, with all the partisan pride of a football dad. He loves football, but he isn’t involved for the sport. “I’m doing what I’m paid to do,” he says, “which is to reduce recidivism in the community.”
How Pat Aboud, head of Sydney’s Long Bay, is changing prisoners’ lives (Sydney Morning Herald)