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Prison Governor gives speech at former inmate’s wedding

Last published on 30 Mar 2021 in Media Releases

A new podcast about life in prison reveals how a prison Governor became good mates with a former inmate and armed robber, and even gave a speech at his wedding.

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For the first time, Wellington Correctional Centre Governor Mark Kennedy shares the story behind his unique friendship with Damian Cuff in the new six-part podcast series, Behind the Walls.

“After he got out of prison, he came to play on my football side and I coached him for a number of years,” Mr Kennedy said.

“I went to Damian's wedding, did a speech at his wedding and I consider him a friend now. I've known him and his wife for the last five years. He's done really well for himself.”

The ground-breaking podcast features first-hand accounts from 30 correctional officers – including some from Bathurst, Wellington, Lithgow and Kirkconnell – about what really happens behind bars, from riots to contraband detection and stories of rehabilitation.

Mr Cuff, 46, spent 19 years in-and-out of correctional centres for a range of crimes including armed robbery, kidnapping and drug use. On 21 February, the grandfather of four marked a decade free of prison.

“Normally blokes get out and they go back to the same area, the same people that they always hung with and got in trouble with,” Mr Cuff said.

“I was given an opportunity before I got out here. I did works release and I still work for that company now - they offered me a position if I was willing to stay in Bathurst and what better opportunity than to start fresh.

“I’m still mates with Kenno (Mark Kennedy) because Kenno, he knew about me, but he didn’t want to make me feel like I was a criminal, or I was different. I was just one of the boys playing football.”

Mr Kennedy still coaches the Bathurst Bushrangers AFL team for which Mr Cuff competes.

“He did quite a long time in jail and he's quite focused to stay out, which is good, but every now and then we sit down and have a chat,” Mr Kennedy said.

“I believe I need to be a positive role model for him and a bit of a mentor. And I think he'd say the same. He’s really focused on making sure that he provides for his family and does the right thing. And I think that's what we all want really.”

Episode four, Behind the Walls: Rehabilitation will be released on 1 April to listen for free on all good podcast apps. New episodes are dropped every Thursday.

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