Each day at Cessnock Correctional Centre, the working inmates are woken, a head check is conducted and the men are on the job by 6.30am.
They finish mid-afternoon and have a few hours of free time before they are locked in their cells for the night from the early evening.
In a rare tour of the Hunter jail - only a couple of kilometres northwest of Cessnock CBD - the Newcastle Herald got a glimpse of life behind bars, including the work programs that keep many inmates busy while they serve their sentence.
About 500 inmates work in the Cessnock Industries Complex, preparing mass-lunches for the prison population, running a commercially-equipped laundry, building demountable classrooms and producing furniture.
The maintenance team - made up of 60 people - takes care of the jail's plumbing, electrical and repair needs.
Corrective Services NSW let cameras through the Cessnock gatehouse doors on Thursday ahead of National Corrections Day next week.
Cessnock Correctional Centre governor Richard Heycock said the work programs were designed to give inmates skills and build their confidence so they could contribute to society when released.
"A lot of inmates here have low literacy, low qualifications - we train them in different skills," he said.
The new powder-coating facility, which opened last May, allows inmates to participate in recognised training that leaves them qualified after 12 months to work in a trade - including in the mining sector.
The inmates are trained and authorised to use power tools such as drills, circular saws and other potentially dangerous equipment, but prison officials say they are closely supervised, the tools are counted twice a day and the workers are thoroughly searched after they finish each afternoon.
Operations manager Mat Beacher said the work program was aimed at creating "change for future generations".
"A lot of inmates come from backgrounds and personal circumstances that meant this is the first time in a job where they have to wake up at 6am and clock on seven hours on the job and turn up five days in a row," he said.
"Real world lessons cannot be taken for granted."
Maintenance operations manager Pat Towns said it was rewarding to give people a chance to provide for their families after they finished serving time.
"I was in a supermarket last week and bumped into one of our former inmates and he was telling me how he now runs his own electrical company and employs three staff," he said.
"It was a trade he achieved while in custody at Cessnock."
IN THE NEWS: