Candidates lock in on jail
WHAT to do with a downsized Grafton jail has exercised the minds of all the candidates contesting the seat of Clarence in the March 28 state election.
For sitting member Chris Gulaptis the jail downsize in 2012 was a painful introduction to state politics.
After making some ill-considered statements during the community's battle to save the jail, he publicly changed tack and since has worked to have the jail returned to full operations.
"The prison environment has changed significantly since the jail was downsized," Mr Gulaptis said.
"Grafton jail is certainly being considered as an option to house the influx of inmates and I will be in the Minister's ear at every opportunity I have to ensure it re-opens sooner rather than later."
Greens candidate Janet Cavanaugh said her party had no desire to increase prisoner numbers but said small, local jails were the best way of rehabilitating prisoners. She also said both major parties were keen to shut down jails.
"We should remember however that the shutdown of Grafton jail started under Labor. Remember when the female prisoners were moved to Kempsey?" Ms Cavanaugh said.
Labor candidate Trent Gilbert said it was totally unacceptable the jail was allowed to be downsized.
"The impact on the Grafton community has been huge and it doesn't take too many conversations with local business owners to work out that the effects of the closure are still hurting our local economy and our local businesses," he said.
Christian Democrat Carol Ordish said her position was unchanged from mid-2012 when the jail closure was threatened.
"At the inquiry that was held in Grafton about the closure of the jail I was invited to speak as a community member of Grafton and express my concern about the closure," she said.
"I believe that it is necessary to take a fresh look at the Grafton jail."
Independent candidate Bryan Robins said the jail had to begin operating again at full capacity.
"It's caused so much damage to local business with the inevitable ripple effect," he said.
"For now, I would fight to have the jail reopened to full capacity."
Another independent Debrah Novak said the jail was an important issue for the Clarence Community and she wanted to contact some "key people" to reflect their opinions.