A consortium involving construction group John Holland is in the box seat to build what will be Melbourne’s latest prison after being selected as the preferred contractor to design and build the project.

In an announcement last week, Victorian Minister for Corrections said the GEO consortium involving GEO Group Australia, Leighton subsidiary John Holland, Honeywell and Capella Capital had been chosen as the preferred contractor for the design, construction, finance and operation (25 years) of the Ravenhall Prison to be built in the west Melbourne suburb of Deer Park.

Set to house about 1,000 medium security male inmates, the new prison will be located within the existing Department of Justice precinct west of the Deer Park Bypass at Ravenhill and will include a 75-bed specialist forensic mental health unit as well as enhanced pre and post-release programs and services to reduce reoffending.

Similar to the Melbourne Remand Centre, its design includes a number of low-rise accommodation, administration, programs, health, industries and recreation buildings surrounded by a solid security wall, and it is expected to use lighting arrangements which enhance security without unduly impacting upon residents in surrounding areas.

The winning consortium edged out the Secure Pathways consortium, which included Serco Australia, Baulderstone, John Laing Investments and Macquarie Capital.

For GEO Group, which is based in the US and operates around 98 correctional facilities worldwide, the win builds on the announcement last month of a 640-bed extension of its Adelanto Detention Facility in California as well as a massive contract win which saw it awarded management of three Florida based correctional facilities housing 3,854 inmates earlier this year.

Marcelino Fernández, chief executive officer of John Holland parent company Leighton, welcomed the contract win, saying the contract award was a further example of the opportunities before the group in the Australian construction market as the combined effect of population growth, increased government funding and greater private sector funding set in.

“We are already seeing evidence of the impact of these growth drivers, with the Leighton Group’s twelve month tender pipeline now significantly larger than the equivalent pipeline six months ago,” he said.

O’Donohue also welcomed the announcement, saying the contract award was made following a rigorous evaluation process. He said the project would help ease pressure on overcrowding in state prisons while simultaneously doubling the number of beds available to prisoners with mental health issues.

The contract for the new prison, which is set to be delivered via a public-private partnership, is expected to be signed later this year following final negotiations, with the two-and-a-half year construction period set to commence early next year.

Around 650 jobs will be created during construction, while around 600 staff will be needed during post construction operation.