Mega-jail plan for western suburbs

Royce Millar
June 14, 2011


Minister for corrections Andrew McIntosh last month denied knowledge of any money being spent on a new prison site in Deer Park, but has now been shown to have authorised up to $5.25 million in February.


A DISUSED rocket range in Melbourne's outer west has been earmarked as the location for Victoria's biggest prison, under a confidential scheme developed by Labor and now backed by the Baillieu government.

Documents obtained by The Age reveal the government has allocated millions of dollars for an environmental assessment of Crown land at Ravenhall, near Deer Park, a site approved by Labor for construction of a mega-prison in 2009.

Corrections Minister Andrew McIntosh last month told The Age he knew little about the land and denied knowledge of money being spent on it. ''I'm not aware of any money. I don't know what our obligations [are],'' he said.

But The Age has obtained a memo signed by Mr McIntosh in February in which he approved spending of up to $5.25 million for the environmental assessment of the site.

The Coalition, despite its tough-on-crime policies, did not propose a new prison in its election campaign last year. Instead it promised $268 million to add 500 beds to existing prisons. In last month's budget it allocated just $35 million for the first 108 of those beds.

However, a surprise inclusion in the budget was $2 million for a business case for a new male prison, the location, delivery model and cost of which would be left to the Department of Justice.

As revealed in The Saturday Age, a business case for a 700 to 800-bed men's prison under a public-private partnership (PPP) had already been prepared under Labor.

Labor cabinet documents show the construction, maintenance and operation of such a prison would run into billions of dollars over the typical 25-year-life of such a PPP project.

Mr McIntosh insisted ''all options'' were ''on the table'' for locating the prison - including in regional Victoria. However, this seems at odds with his own approval of millions to be spent on the Ravenhall site, and the urgency of getting the scheme under way.

The Coalition has promised 500 new beds by 2015. Under its revised plan, almost 400 of those beds will be in the new prison. But it will struggle to honour its promise if it has to find a new site. Accepting Labor's choice of a government-owned site in Ravenhall would save time and money.

Confidential Labor cabinet documents from late 2010 reveal that the Department of Justice scoured the state in 2008 and 2009 for a site, identifying a shortlist including near Pakenham and Warragul in Melbourne's south-east, and Kilmore to the north.

Labor eventually settled on the former defence site at Ravenhall adjacent to the existing Dame Phyllis Frost Centre (women's) prison and Metropolitan Remand Centre. A cabinet subcommittee endorsed the Ravenhall site for a new prison in October 2009. This was never made public.

The Department of Justice is also working on plans for a large women's prison complex, also proposed as a PPP.

Community legal groups, academics and human rights campaigners are concerned about the Coalition's hard line on crime, which includes an end to home detention and suspended sentences. They say scarce funds will be sapped from other services such as schools and health, with no guarantee of reducing crime or its causes.






Tough On Crime is a very successful political point scoring idea but terrible public policy that appeals only the simple minded and morally corrupt politicians willing to prostitute the best interests of society for their own short term sociopathic goals.

Increased prison sentences only inflame, exaggerate and or ignite social problems such as dysfunctional fatherless homes.

Increasingly, the jail business are money laundry enterprises that supply money for political campaigns.

Any politician who supports increasing jail populations is a dangerous individual who will abuse that power given to them by their political success that is often a symptom of their own troubled personalities.