The future prospects of Grafton jail could be on the improve.
The future prospects of Grafton jail could be on the improve. Debrah Novak

Full jails could be boon for Grafton

A TROUBLING rise in the NSW prison population could change the future of the Grafton jail, NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith has revealed.

During a recent NSW Parliament budget estimates hearing, Mr Smith remained adamant that downgrading the jail was not a mistake but conceded that should prisoner numbers continue to rise, Grafton could be home to a maximum security facility once again.

The committee was told the minimum security area would continue to be maintained and "obviously, depending on the developments in prison numbers, will be available for future use".

The near-empty jail was drawn back into the spotlight after the NSW Bureau of Statistics found prisoner numbers had significantly increased in the past year and many of the state's jails were almost at capacity.

The extension of a wing at the Long Bay jail and transfer of inmates to Cessnock prompted Labor MPs to ask Mr Smith whether closing Grafton showed "a lack of judgment".

Mr Smith maintained Grafton was a "very old jail" that required "much higher staffing" levels than the Cessnock jail.

He said the prisoner numbers fluctuated from "time to time" and the recent spike in the prisoner numbers was down to police targeting bikie gangs.

There was also a suggestion that an increase in North Coast prisoners could stretch the capacity of the Kempsey jail.

Asked if the government would commit to Grafton being the first choice "should the need arise for a new correctional facility on the North Coast, further north than Kempsey", Mr Smith replied: "We would certainly seek to do that, if there was such a need."

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