Hei Ling Chau, off Lantau Island, has been preliminarily chosen as the site for a superjail to house about 7,000 prisoners. In a submission to legislators, the Security Bureau asked for $52.15 million to conduct a feasibility study and site investigation. Hei Ling Chau and Kong Nga Po, near the border, had earlier been shortlisted by the government as locations for the superjail. The bureau said Hei Ling Chau had been selected because 'it has less potential for alternative development in the long run from an overall planning point of view'. The plan is to build a 76-hectare prison providing 7,220 places by 2013 at a cost of $16 billion. This will house all prisoners currently held in jails on Hong Kong Island and in urban areas of Kowloon, providing an additional 2,600 penal places. When the jail is completed the total penal capacity of the Correctional Services Department will reach 13,860. The complex will be able to achieve a significant economy of scale, particularly in saving operation and manpower costs. Only 700 additional staff will be needed to cover the net increase of 2,600 penal places, instead of 1,100 which would otherwise be required in the conventional institution-by-institution approach. Overcrowding problems could be solved and the forecast growth in the penal population until 2015 would be met. The original proposal - to build a 120-hectare jail for 15,000 inmates costing $28 billion - was scaled down after legislators expressed fears it would pose security and management problems. The department now operates 24 jails with 11,000 penal places. However, there has been overcrowding and the occupancy rate reached a record high of 140 per cent in 1996, with 14,200 inmates. Legislator Lau Kong-wah, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, had earlier suggested building five medium-sized prisons able to hold 3,000 to 4,000 inmates.