THE accommodation crisis at Beechworth Correctional Centre has been eased with a $2.5 million 50-bed expansion.
Victorian Corrections Minister Edward O’Donohue visited Beechworth yesterday to make the announcement of new beds being created in relocatable containers in a copy-cat program recently completed at the Dhurringile Prison near Shepparton.
The 50 beds will be constructed in 25 portable containers sitting in storage in Melbourne.
They are the same as those used to house mining workers and are also used in prisons in Western Australia, South Australia and New Zealand.
Mr O’Donohue said the upgrade was a cost-effective way to keep numbers down in the state’s prison cells.
“Beechworth is a minimum security facility with a strong emphasis on community work programs providing prisoners with the opportunity to give something back to the lcoal area,” he said.
“The new facility will maintain a safe and comfortable environment where low-risk prisoners can maintain ties with their family and the community while taking part in the postive pre-release and rehabilitation activities.”
Earthworks are already under way at the Beechworth Correctional Centre which opened in 2005 with the total project completed by mid-April.
Indigo Shire mayor Bernard Gaffney welcomed the initial 40 construction jobs followed by the creation of 20 permanent positions for the influx of additional prisoners.
“It is economic development that we dream about,” he said.
“We asked for 40 and we got 50 so we are very pleased.
“We thought we would be getting about a dozen jobs and now it’s 20.
“The economic boost is just enormous, particularly with unemployment as high as it is getting around the state.”
He said the economic spin-off extended to weekend jail visitors and there were no concerns about the extra prisoners in the area.
“We’ve always had a jail here for about the last 140 years,” Cr Gaffney said.
“The community is used to seeing prisoners.
“The community teams that work in Yackandandah in the cemetery and community gardens there are well received.
“People acknowledge them, but there is no fear.
“I am sure prisoners sent up here are ones who fit into the local community.”