Clarence Correctional Centre general manager Glen Scholes at the official opening of the new jail.
Clarence Correctional Centre general manager Glen Scholes at the official opening of the new jail.

Biggest prison in Australia opens on the North Coast

IN WHAT could prove to be the most significant investment in the region's history, the Clarence Correctional Centre was officially opened yesterday.

The $800 million behemoth is set to house 1700 inmates - 1000 men and 300 women in maximum security and 400 men in minimum security.

The first inmate will enter on July 1 and general manager Glen Scholes said prisoners would come from all over the state, including the old Grafton jail.

"We will receive 90 inmates a week, with pause weeks along the way to solidify operations and confirm everything is in situ, and then we will recommence," he said

It was clear throughout official proceedings there is a strong belief within the NSW Government, Corrective Services and Serco that the new prison will have a significant impact on reducing recidivism in prisoners.

 

An inmates room, with tablet at the ready.
An inmates room, with tablet at the ready.

Mr Scholes, who has a 30-year history in corrections, said he had seen "all sorts of activities" attempting to reduce reoffending and was honoured to be the centres first general manager.

"I believe Clarence Correctional Centre, with the operating model that we have and this magnificent infrastructure, places us in the best position to be a world leader in terms of reducing reoffending," he said.

"Locking inmates up is the job of the courts, me keeping them in here and rehabilitating them is the job of Corrective Services and Serco collaboratively.

"I look forward to making a strong contribution to this and leading the way."

Key to the success of the model will be the utilisation of modern technology, most notably 1700 tablets which will be issued to the inmates on arrival.

 

One of the high security women’s wings at the new Clarence Correctional Centre
One of the high security women’s wings at the new Clarence Correctional Centre

 

Those tablets will allow them to communicate with family, watch television, order meals and study online education courses.

Corrections Minister Anthony Roberts said the economic flow-on effects to the region were significant and would provide a $560 million boost to the local economy during the next 20 years.

"The centre will provide long-term economic opportunities through the procurement of goods and services and the extra wages it brings to the region," he said.

Already there have been 350 people employed at the prison, with that number estimated to grow to 600 once it is fully operational. Mr Scholes said many of those jobs had gone to locals and along with Coffs Harbour and Yamba, Grafton in particular was represented "in a big way".

 

A high security mens wing at the new prison.
A high security mens wing at the new prison.

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said at a time when coronavirus had led to job losses around the country, the prison was a great opportunity for the people of the Clarence Valley.

"Grafton is a jail town so we know the benefits and responsibilities that come with having a jail in the community," he said. "The benefits far outweigh the downsides, it is going to be something we are going to appreciate for decades."



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