EDITORIAL: Criminals in our community

The escape of convicted murderer Adam Bowhay while on a work release program at Snowy Oval in Cooma raises many questions of security, safety and competence that no doubt will be addressed by appropriate authorities over coming weeks.

But here's a couple of questions to be going on with.

How is it that one moment this man was considered so harmless that he was allowed to work next to a school full of kids and a whole residential suburb - and the next moment he was described by police as "dangerous."

Why is it that when he was denied parole after serving 16 years of a 23 year sentence for a vicious murder, it was decided to inflict him on the residents of Cooma in an "approved work release program?" If he was not considered ready for parole, even though eligible, why was the safety of Cooma residents including schoolchildren, put at risk?

The experienced people at NSW Corrective Services say Bowhay must have been on his best behavior inside jail to receive the lowest classification - which means he was sent to Cooma jail because it is a low security facility. It would be a pity, they say, if his escape - while a rare event - jeopardises the work release program.

On the other hand, it is probably quite a shock to many Cooma residents to learn that the jail population contains murderers convicted of particularly vicious crimes. Many of us have this notion, now shown to be fantasy, that the inmates are all white collar criminals. Law breakers, but not dangerous.

How wrong we have been. The whole incident is a particular wake up call to the local community in the sense that while the jail brings some welcome economic activity for the town, it is not without some cost.

The community should consider whether this cost, especially in terms of work release and having criminals out and about among ordinary citizens, is worth it.

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