|We've been putting offenders to work in NSW since the First Fleet arrived in Sydney in 1788. "Convicts" was the terminology in those days and their labour contributed to the building of Sydney and the NSW region. In 1840 the British government ended the transportation of convicts to New South Wales. With very few exceptions, hard labour, hard fare and a hard bed was the standard treatment of offenders up until the late 1800's.
On a positive note, offenders were productively employed as builders, carpenters, stonemasons and labourers in the building of prisons. Others did brushmaking, painting, matmaking, bookbinding, tailoring or made shoes. Female prisoners did needlework which were often commissions for private citizens.
The appointment in 1895 of Frederick Neitenstein as the new administrator of NSW prisons, heralded a more humane attitude to the treatment of offenders. The impetus for reform which sprung from Neitenstein's changes continued after his retirement. The most significant development in terms of prison industry being the establishment of an afforestation camp at Tuncurry and the opening of a prison farm at Emu Plains in 1914. Offenders also worked in prison workshops making items such as tinware and furniture.
The pace of reform was then slowed by the nation's preoccupation with World War I, then the Great Depression and World War II.
The impetus for reform gathered momentum again after World War II when Premier W J McKell appointed a committee to report on prisons. The committee made a number of recommendations including improvements in prison industries.
Two major riots at Bathurst Gaol, in October 1970 and February 1974, signalled that there were serious deficiencies in the prison system. As a result of the Bathurst riots and their aftermath the State Government set up a Royal Commission. Mr Justice Nagle of the NSW Supreme Court was appointed sole Royal Commissioner. Tabled in 1978 with a total of 252 recommendations, the Nagle Report also put the focus on prison industry. It called for a permanent body to plan and run industry and to market products.
The arrival of Corrective Services Industries (CSI) in the late 1980's was a major response to the report and the start of a success story that now goes from strength to strength. Today, CSI clients and partners access a large supervised labour force and modern correctional industry programs which are close to being self sufficient.