Our say | Jails boom making crime pay for economy

WHO says crime doesn’t pay?

Work has begun this week on a new 220-bed expansion of the Bathurst Correctional Centre that will provide something of a jobs boost for the region.

And Bathurst is not alone.

With the state election around the corner, the NSW government is ramping up the rhetoric around getting tough on crime.

The Bathurst jail expansion – all $110 million of it – is just a small part of the state’s overall strategy in this sector.

In all, the government is investing $3.8 billion – announced in the 2016-17 budget – to upgrade the state’s prison system to meet current and future needs.

The program will deliver new facilities as well as upgrade, expand, or repurpose existing centres over four years.

The government says the infrastructure spending is part of its prisons program to deliver an expanded jails system, which operates more efficiently and maintains safety and security for inmates and staff. 

It is seeing money poured into communities including Bathurst, Berrima, the Illawarra, Lidcombe, Parklea, Wellington and Cessnock in what must be one of the most significant investments in jails in the state’s history.

And, of course, more jail beds means greater scope for the courts to incarcerate offenders – just the sort of “tough on law and order” message that state governments and oppositions have made their mantra for the past 20 years or more.

In addition, the new maximum security wing at Bathurst Correctional Centre will further cement the Bathurst district as one of the major jail centres in the state.

With four correctional centres within a 50 kilometre radius – including Lithgow, Kirkconnell and Sunny Corner – we really are making crime pay for us.

Those four jails provide jobs for hundreds of local families and put millions of dollars into local economies every year.

And those jails are just another plank in a diversified local economy that helps safeguard the region against the booms and busts that other regional centres must endure.

Rather than relying primarily on mining interests to keep the local wheels turning, the Bathurst region benefits from varied sectors including education, retail, agriculture, tourism, manufacturing – and corrections – to remain buoyant.

What a great story for us all.