‘Don’t sell us out’: Calls for justice centre relocation
CONFRONTED with the possibility a justice centre could be opened in their town, the Corindi Action Group believe they've found the perfect solution to their problem: the soon to be defunct Grafton Correctional Centre.
The residents are campaigning against a proposal put forward by multinational prison service provider, Serco, to open a rehabilitation facility for male offenders near the heart of town - and just 300m from a primary school.
Serco representatives held a meeting with the group on Wednesday as part of the consultation process for the Home Strait proposal, which is earmarked to be run from the Yarrawarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre.
But on the night residents put forward an alternative idea to run the program from the Grafton Correctional Centre which is set to close in mid-2020.
Michelle Hanson, head of the action group, said while residents believe it is an important initiative, the small seaside town of Corindi is the wrong location for a justice facility.
"They're setting it up to fail before it even starts," Ms Hanson said.
"We really, really do believe in the program. But here in Corindi we just don't have the services and support readily available for this to succeed. We don't have police, ambulance or a hospital available here if something were to go wrong.
"Grafton jail would be the perfect place for this program. Grafton is used to these types of programs, and have access to emergency and health services."
The proposal, which is currently in the co-development phase, will see the accommodation arm of Yarrawarra transformed into a drug and alcohol rehab centre for young Aboriginal men who have been charged with a crime, but have been granted bail.
It has drawn the ire of locals, since the news was first leaked in May this year, who have expressed concerns over what it may mean for their safety.
Their campaign has attracted the support of Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh, Page MP Kevin Hogan and councillors Tegan Swan and John Arkan.
In a statement, a Serco representative has assured no decisions have been finalised at this stage.
"Whilst the project remains in co-development with the NSW Government, we recognise the importance of consultation and invited local business owners and the community, through the Corindi Action Group, to the formal consultation meetings," the spokesperson said.
"We explained that Home Strait is a diversionary-based proposal to help reduce offending in the Northern Rivers region through a suite of holistic interventions for young adult men, including specific programs for young indigenous men who are significantly over-represented in the justice system.
"We know that this group are most likely to enter into a cycle of reoffending if not supported at an early stage, ideally prior to imprisonment," they said.
Serco have previously notified The Advocate that it is open to looking at other potential locations for the Home Strait program.