The new 200-bed minimum-security facility at South Coast Correctional Centre has been commissioned, with Governor Mick Reid handed the keys at a ceremony on Monday.
Minister for Corrections David Elliott officially commissioned the new complex at South Nowra, which is due to take its first inmates at the end of the month.
The full expansion of the existing 690-bed facility will create around 120 jobs at the centre, which the minister said is fantastic news for the Shoalhaven community
The new facility is part of the NSW Government’s $3.8 billion infrastructure program to help keep the community safe and to reduce reoffending through improved inmate education and programs.
“The additional inmate beds being delivered by this program complement our sentencing and parole reforms which give the courts better options to hold criminals to account and reduce re-offending,” Mr Elliott said.
Work is continuing on the construction of a 160-bed maximum-security wing, which is expected to open at the site in mid-2019, taking the jail’s overall capacity to 960.
The new 24,000 square metre minimum-security area includes a building dedicated to inmate rehabilitation programs and an inmate workshop.
Construction work began on the site in May last year, creating a financial boost to the region.
Mr Elliott would not be drawn on his personal opinion about the proposed West Dapto jail and would not comment if that proposal did not go ahead, if it would mean any future expansion to the South Nowra Complex.
“The West Dapto jail is just one of a number of facilities and sites we are considering,” he said.
“I hope to make a decision about where the next jail will be very soon. I can assure the people of West Dapto their concerns, both positive and negative, have been received by me.
“I have heard them, I have listened and I’m extremely sympathetic to the opinions of people who live around that proposed facility.
“It is just a proposed facility. It’s one of a number and I want to make sure we make that decision public as soon as we can.
“Jails are funny in the way a community embraces them. It can differ from place to place. I have a jail 1500m from my backyard - I built a house knowing full well that jail was being expanded.
“I know there are communities who would embrace it - I found it quite amusing that Labor MPs down here who scream about the lack of employment opportunities in the Illawarra are also the ones who want to criticise this proposal. So I’m a bit confused at their approach to it.
“But I also want to make sure when we do a build a jail it is embraced by the community, like this one in the Shoalhaven.
“Any expansion decision for the South Coast or any area is a strategic one - we have to balance up the the court of public opinion and also the court backlog and make sure any new facility is in close proximity to Sydney where the major court operations are. It doesn’t make sense for the taxpayers of NSW to pay to transport prisoners every day.”
The full South Coast Correctional Centre expansion project includes:
· Construction of a new 160-bed maximum-security wing at the rear of the centre.
. Expansion of the visits area, clinic and car park; and
· Upgrades to existing staff and inmate accommodation facilities, including a new staff amenities building and administration block.