A new 270-bed Northern prison could be built somewhere near Launceston, if the Liberals are re-elected in March.
Premier Will Hodgman has pledged $270 million for the construction of the jail, with planning works to begin straight after the election under a Liberal majority government.
He said work would then commence within two years.
A location has not yet been determined, but it is understood Ashley Youth Detention Centre would remain a juvenile facility, and that the new prison would be built on a greenfields site closer to Launceston.
- Launceston lawyer says northern jail could create a ‘more efficient’ justice
- Tasmanian Legislative Council to consider motion of prison for Northern region
- Tasmanian prisoner advocate says potential northern jail should replace Ashley
- Greg Hall MLC says Northern prison progress needed "urgently"
- Talk of new Tasmanian prison gains momentum
- Meander Valley Council to lobby for Northern Tasmanian prison site
Tasmania’s only adult prison – Risdon, in the state’s South – is close to capacity and has had staff shortage issues in recent times.
In May last year, the opposition promised to build a Northern prison if it won majority government, pledging $150,000 in its first budget towards a scoping study and $40 million over the following two budgets for construction.
Mr Hodgman is expected to announce more details on the Liberals’ election promise on Sunday.
He said a Northern jail was needed to “relieve pressures in the Tasmanian Prison Service” and would provide a “massive boost to the Northern economy”.
“Our plan for the state includes a priority to keep Tasmanians safe, and we will provide the prison infrastructure needed to ensure criminals are safely locked up and not out in our community.
“The new prison will be the largest infrastructure investment ever in the state’s North, and it is estimated it will create 3375 direct and indirect jobs during construction and once the prison is operating.”
Corrections Minister Elise Archer said the new prison would improve safety for TPS staff and inmates, and allow for greater rehabilitation opportunities for prisoners.
“The Northern prison will be specifically designed to provide for a variety of security classifications, remand facilities, and a women’s prison,” she said.
“The majority Liberal government has prioritised the safety of the community with over 100 new police officers recruited, and 125 more to come if we are re-elected.
“Our strong actions mean more serious offenders than ever are being caught and imprisoned for their crimes, and it is clear a second prison is needed to accommodate the larger prisoner population.
“Importantly, it will provide prisoners from the North and North-West of the state with greater access to visits from family, which will encourage better prisoner behaviour and rehabilitation prospects.”
Issues raised in the past have included Risdon Prison’s capacity issues, limited Northern remand facilities, regional rivalries within Risdon, and travel issues for lawyers and relatives of prisoners.
Opposition finance spokesman Scott Bacon said in May last year that, under Labor’s plan, the scoping study would reveal an appropriate design for the facility.
He said the $40 million funding pledge would be a “good start” for construction, and that there would be enough money in unallocated infrastructure spending to complete the facility if needed.
The Law Society of Tasmania supported the idea of a Northern prison when it was debated last year.
Meander Valley Council voted to lobby the state government to build a Northern prison next to Ashley Youth Detention Centre near Deloraine at a meeting in December.
It is understood, however, that the Liberals are planning to find a site closer to Launceston.