Grafton Correctional Centre
|Location||Grafton, New South Wales|
(males and females)
|Opened||8 September 1893|
|Managed by||Corrective Services NSW|
The Grafton Correctional Centre, an Australian medium security prison for males and females, is located in Grafton, New South Wales. The centre is operated by Corrective Services NSW an agency of the Department of Attorney General and Justice of the Government of New South Wales. The centre detains sentenced and unsentenced felons under New South Wales and/or Commonwealth legislation.
The architectural structure of the current building is unique and listed on the NSW State Heritage Register. The Government Architect (Walter Liberty Vernon), conducted a competition for the design of the current building. The competition was won by Henry Austin Wilshire, a Sydney-based architect, who also was responsible for letting tenders for the construction. It was constructed between 1891 and 1893 and originally consisted of a square compound, with brick walls, with an elaborate gatehouse, featuring a machicolated parapet, a sandstone archway and elaborate panelled doors. The construction was completed in September 1893, and prisoners were transferred to the new facility in November of the same year.
Correction facilities were first established in Grafton in 1862 under the supervision of the Office of the Sheriff accommodating up to 48 inmates. A second complex was established but did not contain the required number of cells, was floodprone and unhygienic. A permanent facility was not established until 1893, known as the new Grafton Gaol, and proclaimed from 8 September 1893 accommodating 197 inmates, predominately male. The centre is listed on the NSW State Heritage Register as one of few gaol complexes designed by private architects in Australia. It is one of few known examples of the work of Henry Austin Wilshire. It continues the features of gaol design developed by the Colonial Architect and is one of the few public buildings designed by competition in the late nineteenth century; its design utilises characteristic materials of the Federation period.
By 1924, the gaol had been reclassified as a maximum security prison; reverted to medium security by about 1945. After 1942, increasing tensions in the state's prisons and a number of serious assaults on prison officers led to Grafton Gaol being used to house the most intractable prisoners.
Riots at Bathurst and problems at other correctional facilities during the 1970s resulted in the appointment of Justice John Nagle to conduct a Royal Commission to oversee reforms to the Australian penal system. As best described by Justice Nagle during proceedings of the Nagle Royal Commission (1976–1978):
It is the view of the Commission that every prison officer who served at Grafton during the time it was used as a gaol for intractables must have known of its brutal regime. The majority of them, if not all, would have taken part in the illegal assaults on prisoners.
In some instances, the beatings began even before the security belt and handcuffs were removed. The beatings were usually administered by three or four officers wielding rubber batons. The prisoner was taken into a yard, ordered to strip, searched, and then the biff began. The word biff by no means describes the brutal beating which ensued. A former prison officer, Mr J.J. Pettit, described it: ,sometimes three, four or five of them would assault the prisoner with their batons to a condition of semi-consciousness. On occasions the prisoner urinates, and his nervous system ceases to function normally'. If most of the prisoners are to be believed, the officers had no compunction about beating them around their backs and heads; nor were they averse to kicking them when they were on the ground. They invariably abused them while they were hitting them, calling them 'bastards', 'cunts' and other abusive names. Sometimes they threatened to kill them.
The Grafton Gaol was officially abolished by proclamation from 18 December 1991, and was converted to a Periodic Detention Centre in the same proclamation. The remaining prisoners were removed and the new centre received its first detainees on 8 May 1992. The gaol is now known as Grafton Correctional Centre.
Inmates from the centre make padded, waterproof Street Swags, distributed by national charities to alleviate the hardship of homelessness.
In June 2010 an inmate was found bleeding to death in his cell. He died several days later in a Brisbane hospital. Serving time for traffic offences, a coronial inquest heard that threats were made against the prisoner's life by his cellmate whose sleep was disturbed by snoring. Prison officials were criticised when CCTV footage revealed that the inmate's calls for help were ignored by prison officers and the officers failed to render first aid.
In 2011 there was contention over the future of Grafton Correctional Centre, with some suggesting its closure or privatisation. The women's wing was shut in November 2011, with female inmates transferred to the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre. In June 2012 there was a decision by the NSW O'Farrell government to downgrade the facility.
- Nathan Baggaley – a former Olympic sprint canoer, jailed between 2009 and 2011 for dealing ecstasy
- Darcy Dugan – an Australian bank robber and New South Wales' most notorious prison escape artist. Dugan spent 44 years in various prisons in New South Wales including Grafton Correctional Centre.
- Len Lawson – a convicted rapist and murderer, died in Grafton Correctional Centre in 2003, serving life imprisonment.
- Sebastian Ryall – an Australian soccer player, jailed for only 2 days for engaging in a sexual act with a 13-year-old girl.
- Kevin Simmonds – a thief and gaol escapee, found hanged in Grafton Gaol in 1966, serving life for manslaughter
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