RUMOURS the proposed new Grafton jail could house 1700 prisoners have been confirmed.

At Wednesday's Grafton Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting the Infrastructure NSW project manager for the jail, Greg Lake, confirmed there were plans for a 1700-bed complex.

Mr Lake said the plans he was working from now were for a 1000-bed complex, but options were open for a 300-bed women's complex and a 400-bed minimum security wing.

But he said the extra 700 beds were options open to the NSW Government and would be considered as a separate stage to the plan.

"Whether they need to do this is something the government will decide," he said.

Mr Lake told the 60-plus business people at the Crown Hotel the planning stage for the jail was about to begin with the closure of expressions of interest in the project next week.

"We put out an industry brief last month calling for expressions of interest and we received more interest than we expected," he said.

"There were construction firms, law firms, design firms, engineering firms, all sorts of players who came along to hear about this project."

He said the goal of this process was to secure a partner, which was likely to be a consortium, to design, construct and operate the jail, probably for 20 years, before it was handed back to the State Government.

Mr Lake said this public/private mix of the jail would create many opportunities for local businesses in both the construction and operation phases.

He estimated about 300 direct jobs in the construction phase and 250 permanent jobs at the jail initially. This figure does not include jobs in the health services sector.

He said opportunities for local business arise by creating a precinct around the jail for enterprises that service the jail. He described these as "hotel services" that would provide food, linen and cleaning.

Not all those at the meeting were positive, with some questions asked about the acquisition of 84-year-old farmer Ben Jones's property for the project.

A man whose farm will be near the jail, Barry Fletcher, also questioned the effectiveness of jails.

He said there was research which showed jails were not effective at rehabilitating inmates.

"The interest is in incarceration, not so much rehabilitation," he said.

An unidentified protester set up signs in the street underneath the Crown Hotel where the project director for the new Grafton jail, Greg Lake, was addressing the Grafton Chamber of Commerce.Photo Tim Howard / Daily Examiner
An unidentified protester set up signs in the street underneath the Crown Hotel where the project director for the new Grafton jail, Greg Lake, was addressing the Grafton Chamber of Commerce.Photo Tim Howard / Daily Examiner Tim Howard


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