Mayor locked in Grafton jail battle

OPEN UP: Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson and Grafton Jail assistant superintendent Damien Carter.
OPEN UP: Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson and Grafton Jail assistant superintendent Damien Carter.

THE Clarence Valley community needs to show the NSW Government it is still angry about the downsizing of the Grafton Jail and the effect it has had on the region's economy.

Mayor Richie Williamson said the economic impact had played a part in him sending a missive to NSW Attorney-General Brad Hazzard, reminding him the jail was a viable option for dealing with the growth in prisoner numbers in the state.

The letter was sent to Mr Hazzard - almost coinciding with the second anniversary of the downsizing - with the backing of Clarence Valley Council, after Cr Williamson presented a Mayoral Minute to the meeting on Tuesday.

"I would encourage every-one to get in contact with the Attorney-General's office to remind him the Grafton Correctional Centre is important to our economy," the mayor said.

"Reopening the jail would be an investment in our economy and bring back the confidence those sort of economic benefits bring with them."

Cr Williamson quoted Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures from May that showed the state's prison population had reached a record 10,917 this year and was on track to top 12,500 by March next year.

Cr Williamson also reminded the Attorney-General of the views of Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin when addressing the Select Committee on the Closure or Downsizing of Corrective Services NSW Facilities last year.

He said Grafton remained a useful facility to house minimum security prisoners that could be reopened quickly at "little expenditure".

Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis would also like to keep up the pressure on the government.

He has also written to the Attorney-General, calling on him to restore the jail's operational capacity.

He said Grafton's tradition as a "jail town" was an advantage as the community would welcome the jail reopening.

"The community has tried to remain upbeat and move forward despite the impact this decision had on them on various levels," he said.

"I know they would join with me in applauding any decision to re-open the Grafton facility."

A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice said he was aware of both letters.

"In due course the minister will respond appropriately to the mayor's letter, which was only received yesterday," she said.

"The minister is aware of the interest expressed by local MP Chris Gulaptis and the council in the future of Grafton Correctional Centre.

"As correctional numbers vary, as they always do, Corrective Services NSW will consider the need for appropriate levels of bed numbers and prisons.

"In that process the local community's views will be factored in, but obviously there are a host of issues which come into decision-making about opening and closing prisons, including the varying demands, levels of security required etc."

Topics:  chris gulaptis clarence valley council grafton grafton jail richie williamson

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