Chance to right jail wrong
A NEW-LOOK State Government should re-activate Grafton Jail into a fully functioning prison to help deal with a spike in inmate numbers, a former governor of the jail said.
John Heffernan retired from Grafton Jail in October 2005 and self-published two books on his 30 years in Corrective Services NSW.
He said the departure of key players in the 2012 decision to downsize the jail, Premier Barry O'Farrell and his Attorney-General Greg Smith, created an opportunity for the government to set things right.
Mr Heffernan said the government's strong stance on law and order has sent the state's prison population rising towards 11,000, while its obsession with improving the bottom line has eaten away its capacity to deal with those numbers.
"I have watched with a great deal of frustration as our present State Government has slowly but surely eroded the effectiveness of our prison system," Mr Heffernan said.
"Obsessed with the bottom line, without due regard for community safety or welfare, Barry O'Farrell systematically closed a number of correctional centres including Berrima, Kirkconnell, Parramatta and downsized Grafton to a point where it is now almost unworkable.
"In the process Corrective Services NSW has lost hundreds of experienced officers, administrative and programs staff as well as health workers."
He said the government had been caught out with its "smoke and mirrors" policies.
"Wanting to appear tough on crime, they have made changes to toughen legislation but unfortunately failed to put in place the appropriate resources to deal with the repercussions of such an approach," he said.
The inquiry into the Closures and Downsizing of NSW Correctional Centres found the decision to downsize Grafton was made in haste and not managed appropriately.
"With both a new premier and a new attorney-general in place, the opportunity is there to right a wrong," hesaid.
"Over 100 beds lay dormant in Grafton Jail and, with a little preparation, inmates could take up residence relatively quickly."
It is something Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis would like to see but said it was too early to say how the changes in the cabinet would play out.
"It's all so new, it's very hard to say where it will go," he said.
"The one thing you can say for certain is the number of jail inmates around the state is going up.
"And two-thirds of Grafton Jail could be opened again at relatively short notice."
He would not comment onthe new cabinet structure, which added the Justice portfolio to the responsibilities of Police Minister Michael Gallacher and pushed Attorney- General Brad Hazzard further down the ministerial pecking order.
"We (the Nationals) have had a meeting but we've yet to sit down with the Liberals and discuss how the different portfolios are going to work," Mr Gulaptis said.