Robyne Cuerel

Prison workers call Grafton Jail plan ‘slap in face’

PLANS to open a new jail in Grafton under private sector management have struck the Public Service Association like a "complete slap in the face".

PSA Prison Officers' Association chairman Steve McMahon had doubts whether Grafton workers who lost their jobs in 2012 would be reinstated.

"It's up to the private operators whether they give the former workers a look-in or not," he said.

"Often they don't want to take on prison officers that have already spent time in the system - they want fresh people.

"But internationally, there is plenty of research showing prison officers are progressive, not regressive, and work very hard to bring change to the industry."

Mr McMahon welcomed the addition of 1000 beds to the state's prison system but said it would not be enough to deal with projected growth of the state's prisoner population.

"The statistics show the growth in that timeframe will well and truly exceed the 1000-bed increase," he said.

"They're not talking about 1000 cells, which means they won't have any further expansion capacity within that spending.

"They need to be looking at producing 2000 beds over that same period, or ideally 1500 new cells.

"There's already talk about closing down Long Bay Jail which has more than 1000 prisoners on its own."

Concerns were also raised over having overseas companies running Australia's corrective services system.

"If they're going to build a jail and use private companies to operate them, all the profits they are seeking will go to fill these multinational corporations' pockets," Mr McMahon said.

"None of them are Australian - they are all from America and the UK - so all that money will go offshore.

"Prisons are the back-end of the law enforcement circle - they're referred to as the shock absorbers of the government's 'hard on crime' approach.

"It's the government's responsibility not to shirk its duty and hand it off to private industry."

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