Grafton Jail revival chances improve as prisoners increase

THE prospect of Grafton Jail reopening as more than just a remand centre may have improved as the Australian prison population hits a decade high.

Clarence Valley Community Unions spokesman Tony King said Grafton residents had not given up on the revival of one of its cornerstone industries, which ripped almost 100 jobs out of the region when it closed in 2012.

"The community is suffering from a lack of jobs - there's no doubt about that. They want it reopened," he said.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data released on Thursday revealed prisoner numbers in Australia hit 33,791 last financial year - the highest figure since 2004 - with New South Wales housing about one-third of the nation's prisoner population.

"The 10-year high comes on the back of the largest annual increase in prisoner numbers since 2004," said William Milne from the ABS.

"Both the number of male and female prisoners has increased by 10% over the last year, continuing their 10-year upward movement.

"The annual increase in prisoner numbers has also pushed the national imprisonment rate up to a 10-year high of 185.6 prisoners per 100,000 adult persons."

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis told The Daily Examiner last month he had "no doubt" the correctional centre would be used again but could not give a definitive date for its reopening.

The NSW Budget Estimates Committee last year heard the state's prisons were already operating at capacity.

Since then, the NSW jail population has increased by 7%.

A State Government inquiry into prison closures and downsizing in 2013 found Grafton Jail was an outdated facility, but its closure was hasty and poorly managed.

It found there might be a need for a correctional facility in the Clarence Valley and recommended that Grafton be given consideration should the need arise.

Unions NSW spokeswoman Mary Yager said the latest statistics represented a "told you so" moment for the State Government.

"We warned them that it showed an absolute lack of vision. It should be a wake-up call," she said.

"It should be a lesson for the National Party too.

"They are supposed to stick up for people in regional NSW but they don't.

"The Grafton community held a picket line for six days ... the business chamber and the mayor were there, but they were totally ignored."



10,566 prisoners at June 30 - 7% increase from 2013

181.7 prisoners per 100,000 adult population - up from 173.2 in 2013

56% of prisoners had been previously imprisoned

93% were male

Median age of adult prisoners was 34.4 years

17% of adult prisoners were younger than 25

23% of prisoners were born overseas

4% of prisoners were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

Indigenous people were 11 times more likely to be imprisoned

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