Last Governor Diaries unlocks hidden stories
AFTER 30 years in the game, John Heffernan had dealt with some of NSW's toughest criminals.
He'd been assaulted and witnessed things you or I couldn't even imagine.
As he stood in a safe cell in Grafton Jail, he knew the inmate was about to "go off" and he looked out the window and thought: "That's it, I've had it."
On his last day of duty on October 31, 2005, he signed out as the Last Governor at Grafton Jail.
Mr Heffernan has no regrets about his three decades working for the NSW Department of Corrective Services.
"I was an electrician before I started and I wanted to do something different," he said.
A nasty jail breakout attempted by Russell Cox in 1975 from Long Bay jail would be the thing to make or break the new prison officer when he saw Cox dragged past him after a shoot-out.
"That was the defining moment," Mr Heffernan said.
"I had to think whether this was something I could or couldn't do and I thought, 'Yes, I could do it'."
Mr Heffernan, 30 years later would recommend Cox for release from Grafton Jail.
"If anyone said to me at the time that I'd be the one to make that decision, I'd never have believed them."
Mr Heffernan ranked as superintendent and for the last 10 years of his service was a prison governor and appointed to manage a number of NSW correctional centres, including Grafton.
But you don't escape a job like that unscathed.
"I still have a few battle wounds, mentally and physically," he said.
When he finished up duty, Mr Heffernan started writing and out of it came a self-published book The Last Governor.
"Reliving some of the things that happened, I found it difficult.
"When I first started to write I charged straight into it.
"Then I started to write about some bad experiences and hit the wall. I couldn't touch it again and I went to work at Acmena for three years.
"When I left Acmena, I went back to it and decided, one way or another I'm going to finish it."
And not only did Mr Heffernan finish the book, he had enough content left to publish a second book, recently released, called The Last Governor Diaries.
To protect identities, he agonised over writing and rewriting both books, but the Last Governor Diaries shares stories from behind the jail walls.
Both books are available from the Book Warehouse in Grafton, at Amazon or at thelastgovernor.com.au.