Kirkconnell Correctional Centre to reopen near Bathurst

REOPENING FOR BUSINESS: Member for Bathurst Paul Toole with Bathurst Correctional Centre security manager Brad Peebles and general manager Bill Fittler at Kirkconnell Correctional Centre yesterday. Photo: BRIAN WOOD 021715jail1KIRKCONNELL Correctional Centre will reopen within months, less than four years after it was controversially shut by the NSW Government.
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Member for Bathurst Paul Toole yesterday confirmed the Government would spend $4 million upgrading the centre before it is reopened to house up to 260 minimum security inmates in 13 accommodation units.

The jail’s closure in 2011 cost 20 corrections staff their jobs and sparked loud protests across the Bathurst and Lithgow regions.

But Mr Toole would not be drawn yesterday on whether the decision to shut Kirkconnell was a mistake.

“Prisoner numbers were lower in 2011,” he said.

He said at the time the Government gave an assurance that Kirkconnell would be reopened if the prison population was to increase, and it had honoured that promise.

The correctional centre and grounds have been maintained since the closure.

“I’m pleased to see mylobbying of government ministers about getting Kirkconnell reopened has paid off,” Mr Toole said.

He said when Kirkconnell closed, 12 staff took up voluntary redundancies and 40 accepted positions at other jails, including Bathurst, Lithgow and Oberon.

Now 60 corrections jobs ranging from manager to administrative personnel will be available prior to the jail becoming fully operational by the end of June.

Mr Toole said it would be up to management to determine if this will include former staff of the Kirkconnell Correctional Centre.

Bathurst Correctional Centre general manager Bill Fittler, who will oversee operations at Kirkconnell, said he expected there to be a lot of interest in working at the jail.

“We will certainly have a big pool of people to draw from. It’s a great place to work,” he said.

“I think this is fantastic news.

“There is a real need for these additional beds as the number of inmates increases across NSW.”

Mr Fittler said upgrading work at Kirkconnell would be carried out by a combination of contractors and inmates.

He said up to 60 inmates would be relocated to the correctional centre over the next two weeks for this purpose.

Mr Fittler said there would be a strong focus on education and vocational training at Kirkconnell.

In addition, inmates will be exploring industry involvement, most likely the forestry industry.

“We will also return to doing community work with the people in Yetholme,” he said.

Attorney General Brad Hazzard said recent legislative changes and active policing had resulted in an increase in the prison population.

It meant the NSW Government had to take additional measures to house inmates.

He said the reopening of Kirkconnell Correctional Centre followed staged expansions at centres including Long Bay and Lithgow, where 635 beds were added over the past year.