Convicted criminals will soon be back working in the Cooma community following a decision to reinstate the work release program, known as the 'community partnership program.'
The program's consultative committee met on Thursday and voted unanimously to reinstate it, after it was suspended following the alleged escape by a prisoner from the joint Corrective Services NSW and Cooma-Monaro Shire Council program at Snowy Oval.
The escapee, Adam Bowhay, was serving time for murder and was due for parole. He was said to have been a model prisoner and low risk, and was recaptured on February 28.
Cooma-Monaro Shire Mayor Dean Lynch said he was happy to see the program resume as it had delivered numerous benefits to the community.
He said in the past two years, external work programs delivered about $230,000 worth of man hours in free community work, including creek clearing, painting halls, removing graffiti, and maintaining parks, war memorials and sports grounds.
He said the standard operating practices for the program would be formalised to ensure inmates were supervised.
He explained that council staff supervised the work but did not supervise prisoner.
"It is not a chain gang and council staff are not there to tackle them if they escape," he said.
The community needed to be better informed and there would be an education campaign at agricultural shows, council presentations, and jail open days for small groups to see how the jail runs.
"We can never ensure it will never happen again," he said.
CSNSW director of Southern Custodial Operations South, Wayne Creighton said CSNSW said one escape was too many.
"We have spent the past weeks carefully reviewing all procedures with our partners and police so we have the best systems to ensure community safety remains our very highest priority," he said.