THE likelihood of a return to full capacity for the Grafton Jail is gaining traction, with the NSW Attorney General saying it is more likely than it has been in a long time.
NSW Attorney General Brad Hazzard visited the jail yesterday afternoon to meet with Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and take a look through the facility and check the potential for re-opening it to full capacity.
He said that while nothing had been determined, Grafton was being factored in as a solution to rapidly increasing inmate numbers in New South Wales.
"Today we've looked through, and, yes, there is potential," he said. "We need to do some work but I'll be taking that message back to the government and to the Corrective Services Commissioner.
"I certainly would put the Grafton correctional facility into my frame of thinking."
"Whether or not it will become necessary we're still uncertain but Chris's message is that Grafton's a city that has a lot of potential, a lot of willing workers and a lot of opportunity to increase the economy by having people come into that facility so I'm listening to the message and weighing it up."
Asked whether the money put aside for plans to build demountable cells to deal with increasing demand would be better spent by re-opening Grafton's correctional facility, the Attorney General said the two were not mutually exclusive.
"They may well be conjunctive," Mr Hazzard said.
"There are designs in place (for demountable cell blocks), and we are looking at who we might have build those and whether we might use inmates in the prison system.
"I've instructed the department to look at what opportunities there might be to expeditiously manufacture demountable accommodation for inmates.
"The concept is that if we can get inmates to build them at a cost effective basis then we are achieiving two things; new skills for the inmates and making sure that we are using taxpayers' money carefully."
Mr Hazzard said the plan for demountables was just one of a number of measures being looked at for both short term and long term solutions to overcrowding, and noted Mr Gulaptis had raised the idea of building the demountables in the Clarence Valley.
"When the use of part of (Grafton Jail) ceased three years ago, a lot of it was stripped of usable assets went to other facilities so we have to get an economic costing of what that's going to cost to reinstate those areas," he said.
"If we do go down this path I'd like arrangements where locals get priority for jobs.
"There are people who used to live here who may also have priority, but we can work through all these issues if, and when, we decide this is definitely a goer, but certainly it is looking more likely than it has for quite a while."
Mr Gulaptis said he was pleased the minister saw first-hand how ready Grafton was to take inmates.
"I think the message to the community of Grafton is loud and clear," he said.
"The minister is certainly looking at Grafton and the capacity it has to house inmates and we do know with this visit that Grafton capacity.
"We've got the facility to do it and the people that can handle it so it just makes sense to me."
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