No Caption
No Caption Bill North

Job hints at trouble for jail: ex-boss

GRAFTON jail's hiring of casual workers straight from the local community is welcome news, but smacks of desperation, claims a former governor of the jail.

The NSW Department of Justice has placed classified advertisements in The Daily Examiner calling for "highly motivated individuals who are interested in providing high-standard security and containment services".

An information session for potential applicants will be held today at the jail between noon and 1pm.

"What used to happen is Corrective Services would advertise there were jobs available, people would go to Sydney for tests and training, then be appointed to wherever the department sent them," said John Heffernan, who was governor at the jail for 10 years.

John Heffernan has written yet another book. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner
John Heffernan has written yet another book. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner JoJo Newby

Mr Heffernan said the advertisement was probably the result of a number of things putting pressure on Corrective Services in NSW.

"They're desperate," he said. "Prison numbers look like they're going to hit 13,000 next year, and they'll be flat out finding places to put them ... I've heard within the system people aren't keen to come to Grafton."

He said uncertainty about long-term careers has arisen since the announcement of a new jail to be built near Grafton by the end of 2019.

"Why would you uproot your family to come here for two or three years to find you had no job at the end of it?" Mr Heffernan said.

"There's no way the service can promise anyone anything at the new jail. It's going to be privately run."

Lavadia will be the site for the new Grafton jail.
Lavadia will be the site for the new Grafton jail. Melissa Doyle

Mr Heffernan said the prison system had used casual work in the past as a way of testing people for job suitability.

"You could get casual work for a while. Then you would be offered permanency," he said.

"Now they like to keep you hanging on a string. Casuals can be just let go."

Mr Heffernan was pleased to see the jail recruiting more staff, as it meant the government was admitting it had made a mistake in downsizing the jail in 2012.

"There was a blip in the figures that showed prison numbers had fallen below 10,000," he said.

"They closed down centres, let go of staff to save money and made bail laws more lenient.

"There was a predictable backlash to that, the bail laws changed, the prison numbers started to go up again and the government panicked."

A spokesperson for Corrective Services NSW confirmed the department was recruiting casual correctional officers for Grafton, with an opportunity to apply for permanent roles when vacancies occurred.

After the O'Farrell Government downsized Grafton jail in 2012, staff were promised first refusal of any job offers at the jail.

"All former staff of Grafton Correctional Centre were offered job opportunities last year when the centre expanded its operations," the spokesperson said.



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