Prison offers financial and social boost
Westbury has nothing to fear — and lots to gain — from a jail, says Tim Stevenson
I BELIEVE the site near Westbury makes sense for the proposed northern prison.
The location is in the central North within a halfhour’s drive of Launceston and close to the Bass Highway.
It should be seen by the residents of the area as another industry to support future population and business growth, predominantly in Westbury itself.
Even if most of the construction work for the new prison is undertaken by state government contractors, there is scope for local Westbury suppliers and contractors to also benefit.
In the longer term it would be expected that, at the minimum, 10 per cent of the permanent prison workforce would be Westbury residents. Don’t lose sight of the multiplier effect, meaning that each worker has a larger positive economic impact on the area than just the individual. More jobs are created in the service area, for example, shop staff and council workers, to supply the requirements of an increased population.
The area needs more industry to sustain the town and its residents into the future. Tourism is never going to be the mainstay some would like, as it is too seasonal.
A lot of the negativity towards the proposed prison seems to have been brought about by the way the State Government went about the Expression of Interest process.
Of course it could have been done better, but the community needs to move on.
Fear of the unknown has led to talk of a possible drop in real estate values. The facts suggest otherwise, as other prisons in similar locations in other states show.
I have visited the NSW town of Junee, which has a prison in proximity and was not even aware the prison was there.
I’ve also visited Woodford in Queensland, which has a large prison in the immediate vicinity, and attended the annual Woodford Folk Festival which attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the town every New Year.
There doesn’t seem to be any negative impact on that community, or its visitors.
Finally, I have two acquaintances who have experienced prison life, one who I work with often.
Both made mistakes, were tried and convicted, served their time and now are making a positive contribution to their communities. They are average people who were caught out when they broke the law and have paid the price. The vast majority of prisoners, I believe, fit these criteria.
I’ve lived in a community in another state that benefits still from work release programs where low-risk detainees close to parole are allowed out in groups to work on community benefit projects. I met plenty of them. They were just keen to finish their jail time and get back to living normal lives.
THEY ARE AVERAGE PEOPLE WHO WERE CAUGHT OUT WHEN THEY BROKE THE LAW AND HAVE PAID THE PRICE. THE VAST MAJORITY OF PRISONERS, I BELIEVE, FIT THESE CRITERIA