Government slams door on Grafton jail

Brendan Ray

A NSW Government decision to re-open Kirkconnell jail instead of Grafton has baffled union officials as well as a former jail governor.

It has also been a disappointment to Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, who recently toured the Grafton facility with NSW Attorney-General Brad Hazzard.

Former Grafton jail governor John Heffernan said he could not grasp the logic behind the decision.

"Surely when the decision was taken they realised the economic havoc it wreaked in Grafton," Mr Heffernan said.

"There's been an inquiry showing them exactly how much damage has been done."

He said the one good thing to come out of it was the government was prepared to reopen a jail.

"It might mean they look at Grafton in the future," he said.

That is also the view of the Prison Officers Vocational Branch of the Public Service Association.

POVB chairman Steve McMahon said the decision mystified him because opening Grafton looked to be the easiest option.

"Grafton could be open in two to four weeks where they are saying Kirkconnell won't be fully operation until the end of June," Mr McMahon said.

"I can only think it's some sort of political decision."

Mr McMahon said the union will keep fighting for Grafton to reopen.

"They've got to set a target of housing 12,500 inmates and with Kirkconnell opening they're still around 700 short," he said.

"The demountables won't be available until the end of the year and there's still big issues about where they will house them."

The Member for Bathurst, Paul Toole, said the work on the jail would cost around $4 million.

The decision was disappointing for Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, but won't stop him from campaigning to get the jail reopened.

"When you've got growing prisoner numbers in the system, it's just a matter of time," he said.

"I don't think the demountables are a long term option and with harsher bail laws and longer mandatory sentences we're going to need places to house the prisoners."

Country Labor candidate for Clarence Trent Gilbert has called on Mr Gulaptis to let the Clarence community know what is happening to their local jail.

"The Grafton community is entitled to ask Chris Gulaptis if the Grafton Jail will also be re-opened," Mr Gilbert said.

Topics:  brad hazzard grafton jail prison state government

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