Grafton firms as private jail site

GRAFTON is firming as a site for a 600-bed private jail.

And it is becoming increasingly clear the existing Grafton jail is slated for closure.

In his opening remarks to a parliamentary inquiry into the privatisation of prisons and prison services on Monday, the NSW Commissioner of Corrective Services, Ron Woodham, said the current Grafton jail was to close and a private jail capable of housing 600 prisoners built.

“Cabinet has endorsed a feasibility study and a business case is currently being prepared with a view to replacing the existing Grafton Correctional Centre with a 600-bed privately financed, constructed and operated centre within the Grafton shire (sic),” he said.

NSW Public Service Association assistant general secretary Steve Turner, who attended the Monday hearing, said he was shocked when the commissioner made his comments.

He said the Government had only spoken previously about the privatisation of Cessnock and Parklea jails. The PSA understood none of the proposed new jails would be run privately.

“Last week the new minister (former union chief John Robertson) was saying only Cessnock and Parklea would be privatised,” he said.

“Yesterday Commissioner Woodham revealed planning was at an advanced stage for a 600-bed privately funded and operated prison in Grafton and that he was preparing the business case for the privatisation of all electronic monitoring and home detention.

“Expressions of interest have already closed as the Government forges ahead with its privatisation plans.

“The Upper House inquiry started this week, but it seems the Government has chosen to ignore due process.

“Prison officers from across the State are angry the Government is pushing ahead with this misguided attempt to sell prisons and court transport off to big business. The move puts lives, jobs and the well-being of the community at risk.

“Overseas and interstate experience of privatisation has often been disastrous. There is a clear record of mismanagement, increased assaults for guards and inmates, increased escapes, lower wages and dangerous levels of understaffing. We are calling on the Premier to reconsider this short-sighted decision.”

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