Minister inspects Grafton Jail, not ruling out upgrade

NSW Minister for Corrections David Elliott has no definite news for the Clarence Valley about the upgrading of Grafton jail.

Just two months into his tenure as the Minister for Corrections, Emergency Services and Veterans Affairs, he was in Grafton yesterday, along with the Commissioner for Corrective Services Peter Severin, for a round of duties, including an inspection of the jail.

It is the second time this year a NSW Minister has visited the facility, after former Attorney-General Brad Hazzard's visit in January before the March State election.

Despite displaying an interest in the jail, the government does not seem any closer to bringing it back to its full capacity.

Yesterday Mr Elliott had plenty of positive things to say about Grafton.

The city and the Clarence Valley are very important to the State's economy, he said.

The jail itself is a wonderful piece of architecture and very important to the history and culture of Grafton. Our future too is bright, he assured us, with plenty of infrastructure spending on the Pacific Highway and other projects.

He also spoke of long conversations with the Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis about the future of the jail

The rising prison numbers - he agreed the current population is around 11,600 - do not faze the Minister.

"The NSW Government makes no apology for the fact the prison population's on the increase because that means our new bail laws are working," Mr Elliott said.

"It is very important for the Baird Government for the community to be aware that we took prisons and the police portfolio very seriously.

"We make no apology that our review of the Bail Act to ensure that we will always reflect community expectations of what offenders and particularly repeat offenders can expect."

But he would not rule in or out a return to full operations for the jail, except to say it was early days for him and Mr Gulaptis has made him aware the people of the Clarence are "hungry for State assets".

The Commissioner was equally non-committal.

"We maintain a very close look on Grafton. Operationally the team is doing an outstanding job here and the place is being kept as it was always intended in a condition that if we need to advise government to look at this as an option, we can do so," Mr Severin said.

"At this point in time that is not the case.

"That is to say I would never rule it out, but at the end of the day for me it is important that we have accommodation arrangements for every inmate in this state on every evening."

The Commissioner said so far this year the corrective services system had added 950 new beds to its capacity.

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