In its May 2012 budget, the Victorian Government announced a new medium security men'’s prison would be built in Melbourne’'s west through a public– private partnership (PPP). GEO Consortium won the public tender, signing the Ravenhall Prison Project contract late last year, and is responsible for the design, construction, financing, maintenance, and operation of the new prison. The cost of the ‘full service’ contract over 25 years is $2.529 billion in net present-cost terms.

The new prison will initially accommodate 1,000 prisoners, but will be built with capacity for 1,300 if required in the future. Ravenhall will enhance community safety by securely and humanely containing prisoners, while providing extensive programs and services designed to reduce reoffending. Elements of the prison include 75 dedicated forensic mental health beds and a 25-bed ‘close supervision unit’.

Ben Dempsey, Director of EIG, an infrastructure advisory firm, was appointed project director by the Department of Justice & Regulation in December 2012 to oversee and manage the development of Ravenhall from start to finish. Ben has extensive experience in PPPs and brings a vast degree of knowledge to the role.

“"While I am not a correctional expert, I am an infrastructure specialist,”" he explains. "“I started my career in quantity surveying, or construction economics, and then studied law when I was in my early thirties. Since then, I have predominantly been involved in leading and advising government on PPP projects, including two other Victorian PPP prisons about 12 years ago."

"“I believe I have a thorough understanding of the market and what the market finds attractive. Having been closely involved in a number of these types of projects, I can readily recognise the commercial aspects and drivers, as well as the pressure points, for bidders putting proposals together. When it comes to PPPs, it’'s really about understanding government’s PPP requirements and working closely with Treasury representatives to ensure they are achieved. We understand how to work with government stakeholders and get the best out of the market to achieve a great long term outcome for the state."”

Given the complexity of a full-service PPP, Ben also recognises the importance of establishing a close working relationship with Corrections Victoria, and in particular the commissioner, to ensure that Ravenhall is effectively integrated into Victoria’'s prison system.