The Victorian opposition’s “tough on crime” policies are behind a pledge to increase the capacity of the state’s prisons by 500 beds.
A coalition government would add new wings at existing Victorian male prisons to house the additional cells, to be completed by 2015, corrections spokesman Andrew McIntosh said on Wednesday ahead of Saturday’s state election.
The announcement followed a string of policies previously released by the opposition to boost police numbers, introduce tougher sentencing laws and abolish home detention and suspended sentences, all of which would result in a higher prison population.
But the coalition could not put a figure on the number of extra staff that would be needed under the $268 million plan.
The increased capacity does not include any extra beds at female prisons.
Instead, Mr McIntosh said the majority of extra places would be at male minimum-security prisons, while medium- and high-security facilities would also be expanded.
“We’ve clearly identified a paucity of prison beds at our minimum-security prisons,” Mr McIntosh told reporters.
Minimum security beds
Under the coalition’s plan, an extra 300 beds would be added at minimum-security prisons at Beechworth, Dhurringile and Langi Kal Kal.
Two new wings at Marngoneet, a medium-security facility near Geelong, would be built to house 100 extra beds and the maximum-security Port Phillip prison would get another 40.
An extra 60 places would be established at the Melbourne Remand Centre.
“We say this is significant, it is a reasonable and proportionate response to what we consider is probably a likely increase in numbers due to extra police, more transit police, tougher sentencing, a zero tolerance to violence and drunken behaviour and anti-social behaviour – and on top of that the abolition of home detention and suspended sentences,” Mr McIntosh said.
Brumby admits high jailing rates
Premier John Brumby acknowledged there were now more people in prisons than a decade ago because longer sentences were being dished out, but he said the government had catered for the growth.
“We’ve been building new prisons during the period of time that we’ve been in government,” Mr Brumby said.
“We’ve done that in an appropriate and balanced and responsible way.”
No new prisons are planned under the opposition’s policy, but Mr McIntosh said a coalition government would explore the possibility of an additional maximum-security jail.
Mr McIntosh said the 500 new beds would be in addition to 435 already promised by the Labor government.
The announcement did not include additional beds at women’s prisons because the coalition believed the government’s investment in extra facilities was adequate, he said.
A Victorian government spokesman said this year’s budget package allocated 141 extra beds at the 260-bed Dame Phyllis Frost Centre and a new 18-bed unit for women at Tarrengower prison.