First stage of prison opens

ARARAT - Victorian Premier Denis Napthine visited Ararat on Tuesday to officially open the first stage of the Hopkins Correctional Centre redevelopment.

Dr Napthine was joined by Victorian Corrections Minister Edward O'Donohue, Ararat Rural City Mayor Paul Hooper and a number of other Corrections representatives who toured some of the new 'Canton' units at the prison, which will house six inmates each by the end of the month.

The self contained units feature twin bedrooms, kitchen and laundry facilities, as well as a generous living room space complete with a flat screen television.

Dr Napthine described the Canton units as basic, functional and safe.

"This is for prisoners who are older, more senior prisoners who have proved themselves in the system and who can be trusted," he said.

"It also gives those prisoners a chance to experience their own cooking, have a bit more opportunity to develop themselves and prepare themselves for external life."

Mr O'Donohue defended questions from the large media contingent during the tour that the cottage style accommodation was too luxurious for offenders at the Hopkins Correctional Centre.

"The standard is appropriate and it is safe, which is important in the prison system," he said.

"As the Premier said, the prisoners who are placed there are those who behaved in an appropriate way...because of their proven behaviour.

"If they misbehave, there is much more serious, much less pleasant accommodation they will find themselves in."

Dr Napthine added: "The accommodation is basic, it is safe, but I can assure you I wouldn't want to be there."

The first stage of the prison redevelopment completion comes almost three years after the project first began.

When the expansion is complete it will see the facility increase from 388 to 738 beds and create about 120 permanent jobs at the Hopkins Correctional Centre - more than doubling the size of the prison.

Dr Napthine praised the Ararat community for continuing to support the expansion, despite suffering through months of uncertainty in 2012 about its future as a result of two of the project's Consortium companies going into liquidation.

"The relationship between corrections and the local community and council is all first class," he said.

"That's because of ongoing communications, and the community of Ararat are very accepting and appreciative of the commitment of corrections to this area.

"This project is back on track because this government has fixed the mess left by the previous Labour Government. This project was a basket case under the previous labour government, which had impact on sub-contractors, on workers, the community and our corrections system.

"This government has stepped in, worked hard with the community, the new managers, builders and financiers of the project to get it back on track - we are now seeing the fruits of that labour, the fruits of our hard work."

Mr Napthine said it was a credit to all those involved in getting the project back on track.

The 350-bed expansion continues to be a major economic driver of Ararat.

"This project is terrific for Ararat and the district," Dr Napthine said.

"This project not only provides hundreds of jobs during the construction phase and a significant injection of funding into the community, but it will provide 120 ongoing permanent jobs here in the Ararat district. That provides millions of dollars into this community on an ongoing bases."

The Commonwealth Bank and Bendigo Adelaide Bank entered a new Public Private Partnership with the State Government in August 2012 and are contracted to deliver the project by the end of 2014.

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