Tabulam prison site identified

By TOBY WALKER

A 1300-acre site in Tabulam is expected to house the newest example of an innovative $9 million prison that aims to prevent first time offenders from turning into career criminals.

With no razor wire or barbed fences in sight, the young offenders who will make up the prison's 70strong population will swap bolted cells for blue skies.

Rather than shackles, inmates will be supervised by prison staff and kept within the grounds by specially-placed microwave beams which signal a security control room when breached.

The executive director of finance and asset management for the NSW Department of Corrective Services, Gerry Schipp, said the prison would be designed to house mainly indigenous inmates aged between 18-25 who were serving sentences for minor, non-violent crimes.

Aboriginal elders and educational instructors would join correctional services staff in the prison to offer training and guidance to inmates.

He said prisoners would tend cattle and crops, undertake educational programs and even be trained in rural firefighting and emergency response techniques.

A similar facility to the one proposed for Tabulam has operated at Brewarrina since 2000.

It was opened to attempt to reverse two statistics about Aborigines in prison: their dispropor- tionate numbers and their disproportionate numbers of deaths in custody.

Mr Schipp said the prison could potentially create 40 new jobs and pump $4 million into the community around it.

But would the obvious lack of perimeter security lead to ongoing problems with escapes?

Mr Schipp thought not.

He said a small number of escapes had occurred at Brewarrina but believed the fact that inmates caught escaping went straight to higher security prisons deterred most from trying. A development application is still being prepared for Clarence Valley Council approval but Mr Schipp said he hoped construction work could begin on the facility by early next year.



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