Community work winds down for jail
IMAGINE how elderly people might feel having convicted criminals traipsing through their house to use the toilet.
This is the scenario some are predicting as the current system of putting detainees on periodic detention to work in the community is phased out.
It is understood the number of periodic detention detainees at Grafton jail is less than 10 and they will be gone completely before much longer.
In mid-2010 the State Government announced periodic detention would go, to be replaced by a system of community-based treatment and monitoring orders designed to bring down recidivism rates.
Since October, judges and magistrates lost the periodic detention option and numbers of workers available for community projects has been falling since.
Recently the NSW Department of Corrective Services closed advertisements for field officers to supervise detainees, even though there are three permanent part-time field officers employed at Grafton jail for this purpose.
For clients of the current system this is confusing and, for some, frightening.
Former Grafton mayor Shirley Adams said that for nearly 20 years detainees performed valuable work for the community.
“They did a fabulous job. In many ways the city has never looked better,” Mrs Adams said.
“The field officers in charge of the work details did a fantastic job. They were firm with the men and made sure the work was carried out without any fuss.
“In all the time they did work for us, there was never a problem.”
Mrs Adams said in her experience with detainees, they did work for the council and the Girl Guides, looking after its campsite at Jackadgery.
“They had systems in place that avoided any confrontations with the public,” she said.
“For years they were taken to the public toilets in See Park for their toilet break.
“There are concerns that any new system that lacks the experience of the field officers could expose people to these sorts of situations.”
Grafton Rowing Club has been another organisation to benefit from detainees and is worried about the effect of changes to the system.
Club president Greg Thompson said the work of the detainees in preparing the river bank prior to big regattas was a big part in the club's success.
“The work they do is fantastic. They do all the work down close to the water beyond where the council workers can go,” he said. “All we have to do is ring the jail and when they're ready they send down a gang. Generally they work a whole Sunday clearing the bank and chopping back weeds.”
Mr Thompson said the behaviour of the men had always been exemplary.
“In all the time we've used them, there's never been any problem,” he said.
“I always go down to where they're working and have a word with them. They all seemed like pretty good blokes.
“The jail warders that look after them – it always seems to be the same two – do a really good job.
“When I've been talking to them, there's been talk of changes. I hope it can continue.
“We'd really miss them if that service was not available anymore.”
Mr Thompson said the rowing club understood the need for discretion handling the detainees.
“When we have big regattas we use the river bank right back to the sailing club, which is on church property.
“The churches are really great allowing us on there, but we realise we need to do the right thing.”
The Daily Examiner contacted Grafton jail and The NSW Corrective Services Department for comment, but each declined.