Union calls for immediate expansion of Grafton jail

THE prison officers union has reprimanded the New South Wales Government for using band-aid fixes on an overcrowded system and putting lives at risk.

In a letter to Premier Mike Baird, Public Service Association general secretary Anne Gardiner called for Grafton Correctional Centre to be immediately reopened to full capacity.

"There is little to no capacity within the NSW system to house any additional inmates who may be detained in custody following the new bail laws being implemented in 2015," she said.

"The proposal by the department for a further 500 beds is no answer to the projections outlined by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

"Therefore, as a matter of urgency, the association calls on the government to immediately release funding to open previously closed facilities at Kirkconnell and to upgrade the operations at Grafton Correctional Centre to full capacity."

Ms Gardiner further called for the construction of a new jail with the capacity to hold 700 inmates.

The state's adult prisoner population grew by 12% last year, reaching a record high of 12,121 in December.

Ms Gardiner said closures of correctional centres had reduced the system's capacity by 1000 beds, causing "great risk to correctional officer safety".

"This has resulted in NSW now having capacity for approximately 10,800 beds," she continued.

"The current inmate population is approximately 10,600 with around 100 inmates waiting for placement in police and court cell locations."

BOCSAR director Dr Don Weatherburn said the rapid increase showed no sign of slowing.

"Normally, the number of remand prisoners tapers off from April to August but there was no sign of that last year," he said.

"The surge in remand numbers has also been followed by a surge in the number of sentenced prisoners."

A new 600-bed prison in Grafton is due to open in late-2019 after a two-year construction period. -APN NEWSDESK

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