Two new neighbours would prompt me to frantically sell my dream home: a bikie clubhouse or a jail.
Don't me wrong.
I'm a great fan of motorcycles and jails, but not in my backyard.
I would no more want a jail built next door to my home than say, a bikie clubhouse. I imagine that would also go for Justice Minister Elise Archer.
I'm using the term jail because "prison" is just a nice euphemism to mollify the fact that it's a jail.
I support mandatory sentencing.
Parole is a farce, just like the ridiculous and phony mitigation factors of early guilty pleas and remorse.
And, no teenager should go to jail or Ashley Youth Detention Centre, unless they refuse to complete their drug diversion or community corrections orders.
So I'm a "lock-em-up!" kind of guy.
I'm always a sucker for those tabloid splash stories about some creep walking free after five minutes behind bars.
As far as I'm concerned the state should have four jails, just as long as they're located nowhere near me.
The state government has decided to spruce up Meander Valley with a jail in Birralee Road, about two kilometres from Westbury.
A floodlit compound, surrounded by a six-metre concrete wall, topped by anti-climb features.
You know, those places in the far distance, ablaze at night with bright floodlights that look like a battery hen farm or a squid trawler.
You could play night footy under these lights and fact sheets say they're switched on from dusk till dawn.
The government announced the preferred site last year and then said an extensive consultation process would take place, having declared where the jail would be located. In other words, it's a done deal, they just don't want you making a fuss.
More than $270 million has been allocated, in two stages over 10 years.
If you're lucky the cost over-run will make it a $600 million jail.
When they built the new Risdon Jail in 2001 it was supposed to cost $53 million but in 2005 it was priced at $90 million. That's a whopping 70 per cent price escalation over four years, for a jail that kept malfunctioning.
But, sure as hell, this baby white elephant will be built.
It's a prime candidate for Peter Gutwein's shovel-ready COVID-19 recovery plan.
No one is going to stop it now.
Westbury can huff and puff, but "preferred site" is always code for here it is, and here it shall be.
So Westbury is getting a jail, just like Deloraine has had a teenage version for years.
The only way Westbury could stop it is if they mounted a Get Up!-style campaign against the Lyons Liberal team and I doubt they have the resources to do this.
There's a fact sheet the Justice Department put out, as only a bureaucracy can.
The paper extols the virtue of easy access to the Westbury project and compares the site to the Lithgow jail in NSW, located in a deep valley a few kilometres and about 10 minutes drive from the town of Lithgow.
Likewise, Risdon Jail is 10km or 15 minutes from Hobart CBD, while Birralee Road is 30 minutes or 42km from Launceston. Easy access? I'm not so sure.
The paper says they won't build the jail next to Ashley because Article 37 (c) of the International Convention of the Rights of the Child states: "...every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults..."
This is spurious. Locating the jail next to Ashley doesn't mean adolescent Ashley inmates would be incarcerated inside the same jail as adult criminals.
The doozy section is a patronising attempt to allay fears about undesirables moving to Westbury.
The paper actually says families of inmates would be too embarrassed to be exposed as family so they won't move to Westbury.
Worse still, the paper says families of inmates "typically need assistance from established social networks..." and therefore prefer somewhere closer to places like, I presume, Centrelink.
The bureaucrat who wrote this then had the hide to say the stigma of a jail is a falsehood and has no impact.
The paper offers the excuse that the department can't reveal alternative sites because of commercial privacy.
Westbury only wants to know the alternative sites, not the detail.
The government should provide all the studies it vaguely refers to, to back up its arguments, and provide empirical data to support guarantees on construction and ongoing jobs.
For Westbury protesters, this is a lost cause. The economic benefits of the prison may well make it worth it, but you have to demand the detail. Demand everything before they turn the first sod and while you still have some leverage.
Once the bulldozers and excavators start up it's all over, and the bureaucrats in Hobart can stop worrying about something two hours and 200km away.
- Barry Prismall is a former The Examiner deputy editor and Liberal advisor.
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