UPDATE, 2.25PM: Opening the new 236-bed Middleton annex today with Liberal candidate for Bendigo West Jack Lyons and Member for Northern Victoria Region Amanda Millar, Mr O’Donohue said the state govenrment has invested more than $1 billion over the last three-and-a-half-years to upgrade and increase the capacity of Victoria’s prison system.
Mr O’Donohue said the additional beds at Loddon would boost the prison’s capacity to meet the demands of a growing Victorian prison system.
“The 236-bed expansion has provided significant job and economic opportunities in the area and its construction saw 240 tradespeople working onsite,” Mr O’Donohue said.
“The new annex will be staffed by 100 new ongoing operational prison staff, bringing the total number of staff up to 300, and making Loddon Prison the third largest employer in Castlemaine."
Mr O’Donohue said the new restricted minimum facility would support prisoners as they transition back into the community through employment, education and personal development programs.
Prisoners will live in self-catered, cottage-style accommodation units where they will be responsible for preparing their own meals and performing household duties.
CORRECTIONS Minister Edward O'Donohue opened the new 236-bed Middleton Unit at Loddon Prison on Thursday morning.
Uncle Graham Atkinson gave a Welcome to Country before handing over to Corrections Victoria Commissioner Jan Shuard.
"This is a fantastic day for us in corrections to be opening a new facility and to have such a wonderful amenity," she said.
Middleton will provide accommodation for a further 236 minimum security prisoners.
Mr O’Donohue told the Bendigo Advertiser during a inspection of the building progress earlier this year Middleton took its name from a small creek that flows into the Loddon River near Glenluce.
“It has provided a jobs boom in the region, with up to 240 workers on site during peak construction periods and more than 100 new, ongoing jobs in the Loddon precinct once the new annex opens," he said at the time.
Mr O’Donohue said an increase in the prisoner population in Castlemaine would benefit locals not only through job creation but also because prisoners would undertake community service.
“We want prisoners to pay their debt to the community and gain new skills,” he said.
“It’s very good for the corrections system and Castlemaine."
The new 236-bed building is the first stage of the overall $76 million upgrade and expansion under way at Loddon.
The second stage is an upgrade to the prison's security system, due to be completed by September 2014.