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Prison funding ‘commercially sensitive’

Geoff Helisma The NSW Government’s budget papers reveal that the government has not publicly allocated any money towards the building of a new gaol in Grafton. Prior to the budget being handed down last week, the government announced that it had allocated $20million towards constructing a new prison in Grafton and the expansion of Parklea Correctional Centre, which will result in the creation of 1,000 new beds: 600 of those in Grafton. Seeking clarification on why the $20m did not appear in the budget papers, which noted that those “allocations and estimated total cost have not been included due to their commercially sensitive nature”, Minister for Corrections David Elliott responded to the Independent’s enquiry in an emailed statement. “The estimated total cost of the Grafton and Parklea projects is not included in the budget papers because it would impact the outcome of the tender process,” he said. “The government must first identify a suitable location for the new prison in Grafton. “There will be information sessions for the community, who will be invited to provide feedback. “We will then tender and award a contract to the business partner who can achieve the best, most efficient and effective design for a multi-purpose facility. “It is essential that the government provides value for money when spending taxpayer dollars. “It’s expected the new prison will be operational in 2019.” Mr Elliot said the private sector partner would design, construct, finance, maintain, and operate the new prison in Grafton. Specifically, the $20million will be used to “procure a private sector partner for the new prison and also to plan the expansion of Parklea Correctional Centre by 400 beds”. The minister said the new prison would “require about 200 employees”. “It will create construction jobs in Grafton and, more importantly, ongoing jobs for the town and region,” he said. “Where possible, local products and services will be used and there will be enormous economic benefits from staff who are working at the new prison.” Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said the privately operated gaol “will have to meet strict government guidelines in relation to other correctional facilities’ [standards and rehabilitation programs]”. “After a period of time the facility’s [ownership] will revert back to the government.” Currently, there are two private prisons in NSW, Junee Correctional Centre and Parklea Correctional Centre, which are operated by the Australian branch of global corrections, detention and mental health facility operators, GEO Group. The Public Service Association (PSA) has been critical of the government’s proposal, calling it a plan to “create opportunities for big business”. The PSA’s general secretary, Anne Gardiner, said “publicaly-run gaols in NSW are the most cost effective in the country” and that prisoner rehabilitation through “domestic violence prevention and anger management programs” for example, doesn’t meet the standard of those being delivered in publicly operated prisons.