ANYONE who grew up playing with a well-known brand of building blocks would understand the construction technique employed at the new Grafton jail.

"It's a lot like Lego, but with massive blocks and cranes," said construction director, Paul Cassel from John Holland.

Construction of the jail is more than 40 per cent complete, with manufacture and construction of cells in the minimum security section nearing completion.

AERIAL: Take a view from the sky at the latest developments at the jail

Project director, Mike Cramb, from Northern Pathways consortium member John Laing, said the 1.8m by 3.6m cement cell blocks were built onsite in groups of three.

The blocks were stacked together then the walls, verandahs, staircases and roofs were clipped onto them to create the finished building

Mr Cramb said the cell blocks would be grouped so communities of inmates shared common facilities for cooking, hygiene and relaxation.

He said the construction reflected the Northern Pathways' brief to build and run a prison dedicated to reducing recidivism in the prison system.

Aerial flyover of jail site nearly half complete: An aerial view of the Clarence Correctional Centre beginning to take shape as it nears the halfway stage of construction

"The idea is the inmates will be in the section together and they will all have responsibilites for cooking, cleaning, making sure things happen - all things you would have to do in life after prison," he said.

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said it was terrific to watch as the project transformed from a construction site into a prison.

"You can see the entire prison starting to take shape, with cells now in place and administrative buildings and security walls well advanced," Mr Gulaptis said.

"The team has laid over 30 kilometres of in-ground cable, and poured around 23,000 cubic metres of concrete which form the building slabs, walls and cells of the prison.

"Our community is seeing major benefits from this project already. There are 600 people on site every day with almost half the workforce from the Clarence Valley.

"This project is providing a much needed skills and training boost to our region with 29 per cent of the trade workforce apprentices and 21 per cent of the whole project workforce under the age of 25."


Northern Pathways project director Mike Cram in front of one the cell blocks being installed in the minimum security section of the new Grafton Correctional Centre.
Northern Pathways project director Mike Cram in front of one the cell blocks being installed in the minimum security section of the new Grafton Correctional Centre. Adam Hourigan

Mr Cassell said construction was on schedule.

"The site has changed dramatically since early works started in July last year and we're making progress every day," he said.

"Lifting precast concrete panels and cells into place is our current focus and is a delicate task. The cells weigh up to 80 tonnes each and are lifted carefully into place with 280-tonne cranes."

Mr Gulaptis said the new jail would play a critical role in addressing the shortage of correctional centre beds and facilities within NSW, and will provide an additional 1700 prison beds for NSW.

He said the project should create 1100 jobs during construction and up to 600 operational jobs once open.

Major construction of the new prison began in February this year and the prison was on track to be open in mid-2020.

The project is being delivered by the NSW Government in partnership with the Northern Pathways consortium.

Mr Cramb said the consortium member which would administer the prison, Serco, was already recruiting staff for the jail.

He said discussions with NSW Corrective Services were also underway to plan filling the prison once it was commissioned.

"Basically the model will be 100 a month until the prison reaches its capacity," he said.

He said the 1700-bed jail would house 1000 maximum security, 400 minimum security and 300 women inmates.