CESSNOCK mayor Bob Pynsent has deep reservations about the Cessnock jail proposal for another 1000 beds, citing considerable social and infrastructure issues.
Cr Pynsent said he met with Corrections minister David Elliott “two or three weeks ago” to voice his council’s concerns about a proposal for another 620 beds at the prison, which had been announced in March.
“He was talking to us about 620 and now it looks like it is going to be nearly double that,’’ Cr Pynsent said.
Fairfax Media revealed on Sunday that Corrective Services were proposing to expand the jail to 1800 beds on its current site at Cessnock.
It would attract 450 construction jobs and a further 430 permanent jobs once built to add to the 300 positions already at the jail.
“I get that we are getting jobs but we pay for those jobs,’’ Cr Pynsent said.
“We dispute the Corrective Services view that families don’t follow inmates. I know how stretched the Samaritans are, we see the problems on the ground.’
Cr Pynsent also cited upkeep of the city’s roads, with prison trucks and staff using suburban streets to get to and from the prison.
He said the government did not compensate them for the upkeep of the roads, and called on Corrective Services to make sure the prison trucks and staff used main roads.
As part of the proposal, Corrective Services said road layouts would also be modified with a new entrance to connect Lindsay Street with the main gatehouse to 'minimise traffic impacts on the local area'.
But Cr Pynsent said that proposal would not fix the problem, with jail traffic still needing to use suburban roads to access the prison grounds.
“They own a substantial amount of land and that enables them to expand with very little [communication needed] with our planning department,’’ he said.
The council would be submitting a “significant’’ submission as part of the consultation period, he said.
Mr Elliott confirmed he had met with Cr Pynsent and Cessnock’s Labor MP Clayton Barr to discuss an expansion of Cessnock jail.
”We had a constructive discussion about the benefits to local employment, the economy and infrastructure and agreed to work together,’’ the minister said.
“Corrective Services will consider all submissions from stakeholders as part of the consultation process for the expanded prison.
“I encourage everyone in the community to provide their feedback by August 8.”
CESSNOCK jail’s population will more than double to 1800 inmates in a proposed expansion which will create an extra 430 permanent jobs and help ease the state's bulging prison system.
Corrective Services NSW will announce on Monday that it wants to build three structures on the Cessnock site to accommodate 1000 new prisoners as part of the NSW government's $3.8 billion Prison Bed Capacity Program announced in the state budget, which would create an additional 7000 beds over four years.
Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin said the Cessnock proposal would create 450 new jobs during construction and a further 430 permanent positions at the jail to add to the existing workforce of 300.
The massive expansion includes a plan announced in March for 620 new beds at Cessnock which would have made it the largest in the state and was criticised by the public services union as 'a farce'. The 620 beds were to be housed in modular cells made at Cessnock and Muswellbrook jails by inmates to accommodate two medium-security prisoners.
A Corrective Services spokeswoman said the 1000 new beds would be housed in three proposed structures.
The Baird government has not put a price tag or completion date on the Cessnock proposal, instead announcing it would undertake ‘building scoping work’ and would seek community feedback on environmental and social impacts.
The consultation period will close on August 8.
As well as the 1000 beds, the plan includes a 'Corrective Services Industries' building with kitchen, classrooms and laundry, an image reception building, playing fields, multipurpose courts and 500 extra car parks.
Road layouts would also be modified with a new entrance to connect Lindsay Street with the main gatehouse to 'minimise traffic impacts on the local area'.
“The proposed expansion of this centre will not only help ease the prisoners population challenge, but will also make a significant contribution to the local area," Mr Severin said.
“Cessnock Correctional Centre already employs more than 300 local staff and this new announcement would see more jobs created, including 450 during construction and 430 when complete. The centre is dedicated to keeping the community safe and reducing re-offending through education and vocational training, and we will continue to keep this as our priority as it expands.”
Corrective Services Minister David Elliott said stronger policing and tougher bail laws had led to a spike in the state’s prison population – now more than 12,000.
Cessnock jail's last expansion was in 2012, when 250 new single-bed cells were built to house sex offenders.
It was part of a $97 million rehabilitation program.
"The NSW government has committed $3.8 billion over the next four years to addressing the increased prison population," Mr Elliott said.
“It will boost prison capacity across the state by about 7000 beds in the long term, with funding for more than 2800 additional beds to meet the current demand.
"These new beds will support our Better Prisons program to lift standards, strengthen accountability and help meet the government's target to reduce adult reoffending by five per cent."
Community feedback will be including in a review of environmental factors needed under legislation, which will also address: social and economic impacts, amenity, traffic, geotechnics, stormwater and waste management, environmental impacts and Aboriginal heritage.