Staff bid emotional farewell to old Grafton jail
FOR more than a century, old Grafton jail has been a constant of the Grafton landscape.
Since it was built in 1893, the Grafton Correctional Centre has been an institution in the community, providing work for and in some cases, bringing new families to the region.
The community fought hard against plans to close the jail in 2012, with picket lines and protests on the street.
However, with the $800 million 1700-bed Clarence Correctional Centre now complete, Grafton Correctional Centre has entered its final days.
This week a Corrective Services NSW spokeswoman confirmed the centre would be officially retired on August 5 and today staff of the jail held a flag-lowering ceremony and marched through the historic jail gates for the final time.
Grafton Correctional Centre Governor Michelle Paynter said it was an emotional occasion.
"The staff who work at Grafton are dedicated individuals and I'm both proud to have worked alongside them and feel very privileged to be the last Governor of one of the oldest operational prisons in Australia," she said.
"We're a hardworking and resilient bunch - whatever is thrown our way, we just get on and do it and that really sums up the spirit of the great staff who made this centre what it was."
Corrective Services NSW Deputy Commissioner Kevin Corcoran announced in December last year the old Grafton jail, including the residential section completed in the 1980s, was obsolete and no longer needed to cater for the growing NSW prison population.
Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin paid tribute to the jail staff and their service.
"I want to acknowledge the great dedication of staff past and present, who have been serving the Grafton community for almost 127 years, and the community itself, which has shown tremendous support for the prison during that time," he said.
"Grafton has been our most important northern prison, housing both male and female inmates of all classifications. Managing those inmates has required strength, skill, patience and resilience and I'm proud to say our staff here have shown those qualities."