No rise in crime at Ararat prisons - Authorities

ARARAT - Authorities maintain there hasn't been a rise in the level of crime at Ararat prisons despite the number of prisoners at Hopkins Correctional Centre increasing by around 10 percent in the last 18 months.

On one November afternoon alone police were called to three separate incidents at facilities in Ararat - two at Hopkins Correctional Centre and a third at Corella Place - a 40-bed community residential facility for serious sex offenders who have completed their jail sentence but who are subject to court-ordered treatment and supervision.

Police do not believe the frequency of the call outs means police resources are being tied up disproportionately within the walls of the prison at the expense of the people who report crime on the outside.

Northern Grampians Police Service Area Inspector Ian Lindsay said authorities are always working to ensure resources aren't strained and that they are well equipped to deal effectively with any issues that do arise.

He said the issue of overcrowding is one that is being experienced statewide and to deal with it communication was key.

"This is something we expect with the increasing capacity of the prison but it is still early in the piece. A significant amount of planning is going ahead with regular meetings between stakeholders and agencies to ensure we have appropriate strategies and controls in place to counter the risks.

"Whilst government and different officers work to address housing and capacity there is going to be issues and they are being well managed by government and local authorities.

"Our role is to maintain a safe working environment internally and externally."

Insp Lindsay said he didn't believe police resources were being unreasonably strained by officers responding to reports as a result of the overcrowding being experienced.

"Not at this stage, we maintain service delivery and an effective use of resources while the prisons have the ability to deal with matters internally."

The major construction program currently underway at Hopkins Correctional Centre will almost double the prison's capacity to 732 prisoners and will also provide eight beds for continued detention.

Langi Kal Kal Prison (Trawalla) is also growing, with a 42-bed expansion on the way.

As part of the expansion of the Grampians prison network a $3 million extension has been earmarked for Corella Place. Originally constructed to accommodate 40 residents, the extension will result in accommodation for a further 15 residents.

A Corrections Victoria spokesperson said there are stringent security and reporting requirements when it comes to investigating alleged criminal conduct in prisons.

"Allegations of criminal conduct in prisons are routinely referred to Victoria Police for investigation," the spokesperson said.

"Police will also attend fires and other emergencies, and will also be called to investigate assaults or visitors caught with illegal contraband inside or outside the prison."

"While the number of prisoners at Hopkins Correctional Centre has increased by around 10 percent in the past 18 months, there has been no increase in the number of police call outs to the prison in that same period.

"Small matters may be dealt with internally via the disciplinary process, however, the complaint may be referred to police at any time."

Residents of Corella Place are members of the community, but must also abide by strict conditions set by the courts.

"Victoria Police deals with allegations of criminal conduct at Corella Place the same way they would in any other community facility," the Corrections Victoria spokesperson said.

Completion of the 350 bed expansion of the medium security Hopkins Correctional Centre is expected next year.

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