Cessnock jail expansion: new images show dorms instead of cells in 'rapid-build' slammer

THE covers have come off the state’s controversial expansion plans for Cessnock jail, with new designs revealing “dormitory-style” accommodation for some of the state’s worst offenders.

Corrective Services on Friday released several concept designs for a maximum security wing of the expanded prison, which is expected to be built in record time.

The “rapid-build” design would see construction finish by the middle of next year, while still affording new security features to manage a near-doubling of Cessnock’s prison population.

The plans show up to 400 of the 1000 new beds will be spread across four wings of a maximum security facility.

Each wing will have four internal “pods” capable of housing 25 prisoners each, with inmates monitored from above via raised walkways overlooking the beds.

The new facility also contains:

  • Infra-red cameras for night surveillance
  • LED strips that light a path to the bathroom during the night
  • Alarms in the shower and toilets that sound if an inmate takes too long or if more than one enters
  • “Immediate action team” prison guards to respond to critical incidents
  • A central command post

The details were announced in Wellington, in Central West NSW, which will also get a new maximum security prison.

“This rapid-build prison is an investment in community safety and allows us to quickly and flexibly adapt to the prisoner population,” Corrections Minister David Elliot said.

The concept images are likely to intensify community anger in Cessnock over the jail plans, which have already been criticised as pre-determined, rushed and lacking concern for the city’s ability to cope with a bigger prison population.

It comes a day out from a meeting, held on Sunday at noon at Cessnock Leagues Club, which is expected to attract hundreds in opposition to the proposal.

DON'T LOCK US OUT: Cessnock MP Clayton Barr.

DON'T LOCK US OUT: Cessnock MP Clayton Barr.

Cessnock MP Clayton Barr acknowledged not everybody was opposed to the plans, with some seeing benefits in new job opportunities, but said there was deep anger over a lack of community consultation.

Mr Barr wants investment in local infrastructure including a new police station, new additions to the hospital and public housing for the families of new inmates.

“We might or we might not be able to do anything about the 1000 new beds, but we can still try and get the best possible outcome for the community by writing a submission,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cessnock City Council has formalised its submission, citing concerns about a potential drain on local resources.