Robyne Cuerel

Prison opening date pushed back, thousands of jobs promised

THE new Grafton Jail's opening date has been given extra wiggle room from 2019 to 2020, as the New South Wales Government promises a statewide prison expansion program delivering 2380 new jobs.

Corrections Minister David Elliott revealed new details of the prison infrastructure plan, along with artist's impressions of "rapid-build" extensions to Wellington Correctional Centre, west of Sydney.

He said 4165 beds will be added to the system over the next three years, including modular cells with 250 beds at Bathurst, 400 beds at Kempsey, 480 at Junee, 240 at Emu Plains and 360 at Nowra.

Plans for a 1000-bed expansion to Cessnock Correctional Centre are under community consultation, with locals questioning the city's ability to manage a prison population of that size.

The rapid-build designs - also planned for Cessnock - do away with separate cells, opting instead for pod-style dormitories to house some of the state's most dangerous criminals.

The former Juniperina Juvenile Detention Centre at Lidcombe was bought for $30 million to be converted into an adult women's prison, while recommissioned facilities at Berrima and Unanderra are due to open next month and in January respectively.

The new 1700-bed Grafton Correctional Centre was due to open late in 2019, but the latest announcement set the date at 2020.

A departmental spokeswoman said the expected date was now "late 2019 (or) early 2020".

A 650-bed extension of Parklea prison in Sydney is set for completion late in 2018.

"The NSW Government has committed $3.8 billion over four years to increase the capacity of the correctional system," Mr Elliott said.

"These beds support our reform program to lift standards, strengthen accountability and reduce re-offending.

"This expansion program will create more than 2380 new jobs, including highly-trained correctional officers and administrative staff, and have a positive impact on local businesses through increased trade."

Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin said four rapid-build prisons would eventually be built across the state.

"(They) have been designed with the aim of improving inmate productivity and ensuring they are participating in programs to reduce re-offending, education or work for up to 12 hours a day," he said. -ARM NEWSDESK

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