June 07 2012

Proposals to close Magilligan prison and build a new facility near Maghaberry jail form part of a fresh blueprint for managing offenders in Northern Ireland.

Justice Minister David Ford unveiled plans for a shake-up of the prison service estate which include the development of a secure college for young offenders, plus better facilities for women.

The minister is carrying out root-and-branch reform of the prison system and launched a consultation on his plans for the future shape of the network of jails.

The strategy proposes the development of a new prison in a central location and the decommissioning of Magilligan prison in Londonderry from 2018 onwards.

The minister said: “Much of the debate on the Prison Estate Strategy has centred on the proposal to decommission Magilligan prison and build a new prison on land adjacent to Maghaberry. While I understand the initial response, it is important that the strategy is considered in its entirety and not viewed as a single issue.”

Mr Ford said substantial investment was needed to develop a modern and fit-for-purpose prison estate which supports the rehabilitation of offenders.

The prison system currently consists of three jails at Maghaberry, Magilligan in Antrim and Hydebank Wood outside Belfast, which have a combined capacity of 1,765 places.

The new strategy seeks to identify the needs of the four main prisoner population groups: juvenile offenders, young male offenders, female offenders and adult male offenders.

The plans for young offenders include improvements at Hydebank Wood, with a collaboration with the Department of Employment and Learning to create a “secure college”.

The consultation on the proposed reforms will run until September 28.