The final photo of Grafton Jail staff after the picket line disbanded on day six of the Grafton jail community picket line in 2012.
The final photo of Grafton Jail staff after the picket line disbanded on day six of the Grafton jail community picket line in 2012. Debrah Novak

Grafton vocal in jail probe

THE closure of Grafton Jail dominated the Upper House inquiry into NSW jail downsizing and closures.

Christian Democrat Member of the Legislative Council and select committee chair Paul Green said it wasn't surprising most of the submissions came from Grafton following the local reaction in July last year.

"We can't do much more than ask people to write in and the majority of people did from Grafton," Mr Green said.

A report should be tabled in June after the final hearing was held earlier this month, but one former governor of Grafton Jail has expressed his disappointment the NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith did not appear.

John Heffernan said he read the minutes of the third and last hearing with "interest" and "concern".

"I find it extremely disappointing that the Attorney-General was not requested to give evidence before the inquiry," Mr Heffernan said in a letter to select committee member, Labor MLC Mick Veitch.

"In effect, this means that no one who was actually involved in the decision to downsize Grafton Correctional Centre has been called upon to account or to justify the reasons offered at the time.

"The two individuals most responsible, the former commissioner, Ron Woodham, and the former deputy commissioner, Ian MacLean, are now both long gone.

"I suspect therefore we will never really know why a government chose to effectively walk all over the top of a small community."

Mr Green said the appropriate authorities were invited to attend the inquiry and that the Attorney-General felt Commissioner Peter Severin would be able to answer questions.

"In terms of him not attending, it could be considered a disappointment, but the wider thing is to get good outcomes," Mr Green said.

"I think the answers Grafton is after, it is getting.

"But it will never be satisfied.

"(The closure) created a lot of anxiety among the staff and inmates.

"The committee trying to get answers over a lot of different things about NSW in general but especially for Grafton, we want to make sure it does not happen the same way as it happened in Grafton."

The decision to investigate the downsizing of Corrective Services NSW facilities came after Mr Veitch put a motion forward in the Upper House to appoint a select committee. When the hearing came to Grafton in December last year, it was criticised for becoming over-politicised.

Mayor Richie Williamson appeared and asked the Government to redress a wrong decision, while James Patterson of Grafton Chamber of Commerce presented facts and figures to show how business was hurting since the closure.


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