A significant milestone for the Cessnock Correctional Centre expansion was reached on Wednesday when the first sod for the extension to the existing maximum security complex was turned.
The jail expansion is a three-stage project, featuring a 400-bed rapid build prison (which is almost complete), a 330-bed extension to the maximum security wing and a new 280-bed minimum-security facility (which is still in the design phase).
Corrective Services NSW northern custodial operations director Glen Scholes said the start of the second stage of the expansion was a “proud day” for the correctional centre.
The 330-bed expansion to the maximum security wing (which opened in 2013) will create about 350 jobs before and after construction.
Mr Scholes said the project has come a long way since it was first announced in July 2016.
He said many of the community’s concerns have been addressed through the consultative committee.
A traffic study is underway with Roads and Maritime Services to finalise an alternate access road to the jail (one of the major concerns raised by the community when the project was first announced).
Mr Scholes praised the construction, security and staff of the 400-bed rapid build prison as “second to none”.
He said the amount of jobs that have been created has been a huge benefit for Cessnock.
“Local people are very pleased to be able to get jobs in their community,” he said.
Cessnock Correctional Centre opened in 1974 and now houses around 850 inmates, with more than 460 staff.
By the end of the three-stage expansion, it will be home to an extra 1000 prisoners and will employ an extra 430 staff (with another 450 new jobs during the construction).
Richard Crookes Construction has the contract to build the 330-bed expansion, with the works expected to be completed mid-2019.
Minister for Corrections David Elliott attended the sod-turning ceremony on Wednesday and said the project would deliver vital jobs and investment to the region.
“Today we break soil on a new facility which will create about 350 jobs before and after construction, and further support the NSW Government’s drive to lift standards across the prison system and reduce recidivism,” Mr Elliott said.
“The more modern a prison we have, the better off we are to rehabilitate offenders.”
The facility is part of the NSW Government’s $3.8 billion infrastructure program to increase prison capacity across the state and help reduce the rate of reoffending.
“Across the state, we are recruiting more than 1400 new custodial officers and 100 Community Corrections officers, providing an economic boost in many regional economies,” Mr Elliott said.