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Jail inquiry in for robust hearing as public has its say

The sun sets on day five of the Grafton jail picket line.
The sun sets on day five of the Grafton jail picket line. Debrah Novak

A NSW Upper House inquiry into jail downsizing and closures seems likely to get an earful from Grafton residents when it comes to the city on December 10.

From former prison employees to Mayor Richie Williamson, residents are determined to have their say about the decision in late June to downsize the Grafton Jail.

The surprise decision to axe 108 positions at the jail sent shockwaves through the community and sparked two public rallies and a picket line around the prison, which was only broken when a squad of riot police confronted the picketers.

Former jail employee Scott Ensbey, who lost his job in the downsizing, said he had been forced to take a $40,000 loss when selling his house.

"I know of quite a few blokes in similar positions," he said.

"I went to Sydney and sat across a table from Commissioner Ron Woodham and asked him if he could guarantee there would be no closure or downsizing at Grafton.

"He told us there were no plans to do anything with Grafton. That was in December. We learnt later the decision to downsize the jail was made in October."

Mayor Richie Williamson said he will also address the inquiry.

"It's critical the community gets its side of the story across to the inquiry," Cr Williamson said.

This week the Select Committee into the Closure or Downsizing of Corrective Services NSW Facilities outlined the first stages in its program of consultation for the inquiry.

The committee will hold its first public hearing at Parliament House on Friday, November 23 to receive evidence from key stakeholders.

Details of the hearing, including a schedule of witnesses, will be placed on the committee's website as it becomes available.

On Monday, December 10 the committee will visit Grafton, where it will tour the Grafton Correctional Centre and hold a public hearing.

The committee will hold a public forum at the South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club that afternoon at which community members who have registered will each have five minutes to address the committee.

"The committee encourages affected employees of the Grafton Correctional Centre and other interested individuals to attend the public forum," said committee chairman Paul Green.

"We will try to hear from as many people as possible, but speakers must register in advance."

Topics:  grafton jail



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