Brendan Ray

Opening Grafton jail the government's next step: union

THE State Government's next step in dealing with the rising numbers of prisoners in the state's jails is to immediately reopen Grafton jail to its full capacity.

The union representing prison officers, the Public Service Association, is claiming victory for its campaign to have jails re-opened following the announcement from the government on Friday, Kirkconnel Jail at Bathurst, is back on line.

The assistant general secretary for the PSA, Steve Turner, said returning Grafton to full capacity was the next logical step for the government.

"The government has taken a hard line on crime and wants to lock up more criminals," he said.

"Prison numbers are higher now than they've ever been - 11,624 inmates - and overcrowding in the prison system is a real safety threat to our members.

"Grafton could take care of 250 prisoners, 80 of them maximum security, in a couple of months.

"Grafton is in a lot better situation than Kirkconnell. When they closed Kirkconnell, it was stripped.

"But because Grafton is still operating as a remand centre, it could open again in a couple of months."

Mr Turner said the PSA wrote to Premier Mike Baird in December 2014 expressing grave concerns about prison overcrowding and called for the Government to immediately reopen Kirkconnell and upgrade the operations at Grafton to full capacity.

"Overcrowding impacts directly on the work health and safety of prison officers who have inadequate workers compensation cover should they be injured," Mr Turner said.

Mr Turner said even if you took the government's proposal to build a new jail at Grafton by 2019 at face value, it was still four years of working with unnecessarily overcrowded jails.

"It's the obvious solutions," he said. "They don't have to back down or say sorry, they can just open the jail and say they're fixing up the mess after the Labor Government closed too many jails."

Numbers game

  • The state's prison population continues to explode, according to new figures from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).
  • In June, prisoner numbers hit a record high of 11,624 inmates - an increase of 2.3% between April 2015 and June 2015.
  • NSW's adult prison population has jumped 12.2% (an extra 1,261 prisoners) in the past financial year.

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