Mortlock Centre future unknown

Questions remain over the future of the Cooma Community Offender Support Program (COSP) facility, which closed in September.

Correctional Services (CSNSW) are also tight-lipped about the fate of staff affected by the closure of the program and facility.

CSNSW issued a statement which says "Cooma COSP staff wishing to remain employed with Corrective Services NSW have been placed in other positions within the organisation including at Cooma Correctional Centre. Some staff elected to take voluntary redundancy."

In response to the request for information about the future of the facility, also known as the Henry Mortlock Centre, Correctional Services would only reveal "CSNSW is considering its options regarding the future use of the facility."

The Cooma COSP facility was closed following a statewide review which saw a number of COSPs closed in additon to Cooma, including Kempsey, Wollongong, Tomago, Penrith and Windsor, due to high operational costs.

The Cooma COSP was also subject to growing community concerns due to the increasing number of crimes committed by the 'residents' - prisoners on parole.

Member for Monaro John Barilaro also confirmed that "all residents have been successfully accommodated and Correctional Services NSW (CSNSW) is currently considering options for the future use of the facility."

The Cooma COSP was opened in July 2009 amid much fanfare with 13 new jobs created. The program was designed to reintegrate offenders on parole into the community. 

Up to 25 residents' were housed at the facility and were supervised 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

They were expected to pay board and lodgings and assisted in the maintenance and housework at the facility.

Mr Barilaro said the COSP in Cooma was always under-utilised, expensive to run and never designed as a COSP but as a minimum security correctional unit.

"There were some issues with the community accepting the COSP and the closure was welcomed by Council."

Cooma Monaro Shire mayor Dean Lynch said he was on the record as being keen to see the facility operate as a low security prison.

"I would love to see the facility being used for what is was originally designed for," Mayor Lynch said.

In announcing the outcome of the review of COSPs, CSNSW Commissioner Peter Severin said the review found that the COSP centres were costly, inefficient and located in the wrong areas.

"These centres are generally less than half full, with an average 44 per cent occupancy rate that makes them costly and unsustainable," Mr Severin said.

"Housing offenders in COSP centres once they are released from prison is significantly more expensive than in custody and this is not a good investment. 

"The average daily cost per inmate in minimum-security custody is $194 compared to $357 in a COSP centre."

Cr Lynch said Corrective Services had sought to improve the community's understanding of the Cooma jail, which is a medium security prison.

"They have started the process of educating and engaging with the public, and some community groups have had tours of the Cooma jail," Cr Lynch said.

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