THE controversial prisoner work release program in Cooma has been suspended in the wake of community anxiety following the alleged escape of a convicted murderer last week.
Adam Bowhay was serving a 23-year-sentence for the brutal murder of a man in the northern NSW town of Casino and was on a work release (or community work) program at Snowy Oval when he allegedly 'disappeared'.
He was being supervised by an employee of the Cooma-Monaro Shire Council.
His alleged escape fuelled community fear and rumours ran rife throughout Cooma and surrounding areas.
The immediate anxiety has eased since his recapture on the Billilingara Road, south of Bredbo on Thursday, after almost three days on the run.
He has since appeared in Goulburn Court on charges of escaping lawful custody, and larceny.
Cooma-Monaro Shire Council mayor Dean Lynch - who supports the work release program - said it had been suspended.
"It will be discussed at a meeting with Corrective Services NSW, to ensure it doesn't happen again, and will review this incident and the program," Cr Lynch said.
"I have always supported the program and still do.
"We all care about the level of security of the program, but it is not appropriate for me to comment before the meeting next week."
He assured the community that prisoners in the program had been vetted and were in the lowest risk category.
Mr Bowhay had served 16 years of his 23 year sentence and had been a 'model prisoner.' He was taking part in the community maintenance program - a joint council and Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) program - which is part of his rehabilitation prior to possible parole.
Corrective Services NSW said this was the first time an inmate on the Cooma Community work program had allegedly absconded in its 12 year history.
"Mr Bowhay had progressed to a C3 security classification which is the lowest possible rating prior to being released on parole," a spokesperson said.
"He was doing community work, line-marking at Snowy Oval in Cooma as part of an approved pre-release work program in partnership with Cooma Council."