A RECORD drop in the prison population has allowed the government to close Parramatta, Berrima and Kirkconnell prisons, cutting 350 jobs by the end of the year.The Corrective Services Commissioner, Ron Woodham, said there were 11,224 prison beds at the end of last month, but just 9847 inmates, down from 10,400 in June last year.
Mr Woodham said 600 to 650 beds would be cut as part of savings, which would need to be found across the organisation. He said voluntary redundancy packages, redeployment and retraining had been offered to staff and ''every attempt is being made to backfill positions'
The Attorney-General, Greg Smith, said a disused section of Parklea Correctional Centre would be reopened to provide 80 beds for relocated inmates. He said the government was also investing $46 million in programs to reduce reoffending and $78 million to build new courts.
The shadow attorney-general, Paul Lynch, said the job cuts would have an adverse affect on local communities. He said there had been no dramatic changes in sentencing patterns which would justify reducing prison capacity.
''The closures are likely to make the corrective services system harder to manage,'' he said.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said the prison population in NSW was 11,000 according to a report from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW that was released last month.
''While the government has stated that it will close three prisons, it has also indicated that it will move to privatise the remaining prison facilities in NSW,'' he said. ''When this government says it is examining 'the potential for greater contestability' in the delivery of corrective services, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind what he meant. This means privatisation.''