Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jails boss keeps job for just six months

Sean Nicholls | SMH | October 19, 2011

SPECULATION is mounting about the future of the veteran NSW prisons boss, Ron Woodham, after his contract was renewed for just six months.

Mr Woodham has been in negotiations with the NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, about the renewal of his contract, which was due to expire on October 22.

Yesterday, the government confirmed an agreement had been reached to extend Mr Woodham's term but only until April 30 next year.

The decision comes as Mr Smith has argued the need for cultural change within the NSW prisons system.

Discussing prison reform shortly after the change of government in April, Mr Smith told the ABC: ''I don't expect that Mr Woodham wants to retire or will retire at this stage. We'll see how we can work together.''

Mr Smith said he was ''putting a lot of reforms up that seem to go against the culture that's existed in recent years''.

On Friday, Mr Smith told Parliament the previous government ''let the commissioner run the place''.

''I am not saying that he ran it badly but nevertheless ministers did not take responsibility for the organisation.

''As a result, from time to time we have security problems. There were a lot more escapes in the 12 months prior to our coming to government than there were before.''

The announcement of the contract extension follows confirmation in the state budget that the government would close prisons at Parramatta, Berrima and Kirkconnell.

Mr Woodham said in a statement: ''My priority at this stage is managing the downsizing of the organisation and the relocation of 600 staff across the state as a result of the three jail closures announced in September.''

Mr Woodham joined the corrective services department in 1965 and is the only prison officer to have made it to the top.

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