$21.5m for prison work

The taxpayer-funded price tag of boosting prisoner capacity at the Otago Corrections Facility (OCF) is $21.5 million, it was revealed yesterday.

The figure - which equates to about 10% of the original construction cost of the two-and-a-half-year-old prison - includes both the design and actual construction costs for the double-bunking project, which will add 122 beds to the facility at Milburn.

Capacity there will rise from 335 to 485 from February next year as the Department of Corrections studies ways of accommodating a big lift in prisoner numbers.

The prison, which opened in June 2007 at a cost of $218.5 million, was originally built with about 35 cells containing two beds.

Dunedin-based Naylor Love won the fresh contract and has already started work.

The job involves more than just fitting extra beds to cells.

Included in the brief are building extensions, exercise yards, a new building for searching purposes, a new Corrections Inmate Employment commercial workshop, new fencing and an extended car parking area.

In a statement to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, a department spokesman said the figure of $21,560,000 was the "gross project cost".

It was not willing to break that figure down any further, citing "commercial sensitivity reasons".

The department expects it will also need an extra 67 staff to cater for the rise in prisoners accommodated at OCF.

A spokesman for Corrections Minister Judith Collins said he had no immediate comment on the $21.5 million figure.

The Government yesterday announced the number of prisoners housed nationwide had reached a record 8520.

The previous highest figure was 8509, reported on September 21 this year.

"This is a trend that cannot continue, as the social and economic costs to the country are immense," Ms Collins said in a statement.

"A large number of these prisoners have been in jail before.

"While some are plain bad, for others reoffending is the result of them being poorly equipped to lead a law-abiding and productive life."

About 43% of prisoners reoffend within a year of their release.

More than half of prisoners reoffend and are imprisoned again within five years.


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