THE site for a new 220-bed wing at Bathurst Correctional Centre was inspected on Tuesday and the first sod turned ahead of the start of construction next month.
Minister for Corrections David Elliot and member for Bathurst Paul Toole were joined by construction company Hansen Yucken and Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin for the inspection.
Expanding the correctional centre marks a $110 million investment in Bathurst, part of the NSW Government’s $3.8 billion prison infrastructure plan.
Mr Elliot said that, while he would prefer to invest money in other areas, this investment would benefit more than just corrections.
“This new facility here will see an extra 220 maximum-security beds. It will see lots of jobs, not only in the construction, but also the officers that will come to service the new facility, and I think what we’ll also see is an economic benefit for Bathurst as a whole,” he said,
“Those officers will come with regular incomes, they’ll come with families and the families will need schooling, they’ll need hospitality, entertainment, they’ll need real estate and that in my mind is a win-win for both the people of NSW – they’ll get a better return for their investment – and the people of Bathurst.”
Mr Elliot said that people shouldn’t see the increase in beds in Bathurst as an indicator that crime was on the rise in the Central West.
He said it was a response to many prison facilities being at or near capacity, resulting from “the best police force in the world” charging people at a higher rate.
The state’s crime rate has dropped, he said, and Australia’s tough bail laws for repeat offenders and strong demand for custodial sentences mean more beds are needed.
“The crime rates in Bathurst are good, I’m very happy with the work that the police have been doing and Paul Toole has done a fantastic job in ensuring the police in this area are well resourced, but what we are saying, for value for money for taxpayers, it is always better to have a jail in regional NSW,” Mr Elliot said.
“It is obviously better for the employment prospects for the local area ... and of course for those in maximum security they are going to be here for a prolonged period of time, they’re less likely to need access to Sydney courts, so it does make good sense for us to have it in a regional area like Bathurst.”
Mr Toole said Bathurst has a long history with corrections and it was exciting for the city to have been chosen as the location for extra beds.
“This is good for the area, good for the local economy, good for employment and I’m really pleased to be the local member driving these investments,” he said.
Construction on the new wing is scheduled to start in August, with completion due in 2020.
The facility will house 220 maximum-security male inmates, a new education and programs unit, visit areas, industries workshop, new reception, gatehouse buildings and a new kitchen, laundry and stores.