Construction of the new Gizo Correctional Centre and staff housing has officially commenced with a ceremony on the site last Friday.

The new Centre, which is expected to be completed in June 2013, will be a
low-medium security facility and will accommodate up to 50 inmates from Western and Choiseul Provinces. Eleven houses will be built on the site for Correctional Services Solomon Islands (CSSI) staff.

Speaking at the ceremony, the Minister for Police, Justice and Correctional Services, the Honourable Mr David Tome, said the new Centre was vital infrastructure for Western Province. Mr Tome encouraged community groups to work with CSSI in providing programs and services for the new Centre when it opened.

The Premier of Western Province, the Honourable George Lilo, also welcomed the start of construction saying that law and justice, and the infrastructure needed to support it, is critical for investor confidence and the economic development of Western Province.

The new Gizo Correctional Centre will replace the former Gizo Prison, which suffered severe damage during the 2007 tsunami and failed to meet basic United Nations standards for prisoner welfare.

The Centre, which is being funded by RAMSI's Law and Justice Program, has been designed to be meet the community's needs and will be able to be maintained locally.

During the ceremony, the Commissioner of CSSI, Mr Francis Haisoma, thanked both levels of government and RAMSI for their continuing support to CSSI in making the new Centre and associated staff houses possible.

Mr Haisoma said the focus of the new Centre will be on providing inmates with new work and life skills through rehabilitation programs. Rehabilitation programs, such as literacy classes, vocational skills training and faith- based programs are aimed at helping inmates to make a fresh start in their lives.

"Having family and community support services close by to support inmates is important for rehabilitation. With the opening of the Centre, prisoners from Western province will once again serve their sentences close to family rather than in Honiara which is the current case."

Mr Haisoma called on Church groups, community groups, non-government organisations and other agencies to work with CSSI to run rehabilitation programs at the new Centre. He said the CSSI rehabilitation team would be looking to develop local providers before the centre opened.

The construction of the new Centre is expected to bring significant economic benefits to the Western Province of Solomon Islands. More than 40 people are expected to be employed on the site during construction, and up to 20 Correctional Officers will be employed when the centre is opened. Construction will be managed by Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM).

CSSI and SKM with the support of RAMSI have undertaken awareness activities with local communities, and will continue to do so during construction.

The construction of the Gizo Correctional Centre and associated staff housing is another major milestone for CSSI, which has undergone significant change since RAMSI's arrival.

Today the country's Correctional system is strong, fair and independent under the leadership of local Commissioner Francis Haisoma. CSSI has been recognised as a regional leader in its rehabilitation approach to changing the lives of inmates and has become a leading employment choice in Solomon Islands, with strong training and professional development opportunities.

Source: Press Release, RAMSI Media Unit