HMP Magilligan: Redevelopment

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 15th June 2015.

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Photo of George Robinson George Robinson DUP 2:00 pm, 15th June 2015

1. Mr G Robinson asked the Minister of Justice for an update on the redevelopment of HMP Magilligan. (AQO 8378/11-15)

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

An outline business case for the redevelopment of Magilligan prison was approved by DFP on 9 January this year. I met the then Minister of Finance and Personnel on 28 April to discuss capital funding for delivery of the prison estate strategy. Until there is certainty on the capital available in the next spending review, it is not possible to give a commitment to deliver an eight-year construction programme. Securing the necessary capital will determine the timeline for the development of the new prison at Magilligan. My officials will complete the necessary bid to DFP to secure capital funding this summer.

Photo of George Robinson George Robinson DUP

Does the Minister agree, given the continuing rise in the prisoner population at HMP Magilligan to near-maximum levels, that it is essential that redevelopment at the prison is concluded at the earliest possible date for prisoner and staff well-being?

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

I certainly understand that it is important that we proceed with the programme for Magilligan. It is also important that we proceed with some of the capital work that is required at Maghaberry, including a facility for women, in the context of the difficult financial circumstances that the Executive, as a whole, face.

Photo of Pat Ramsey Pat Ramsey Social Democratic and Labour Party

Further to the Member's question, is there any intent to carry out a phased introduction of development, taking in the security and educational needs of prisoners, at Magilligan?

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

Mr Ramsey makes a valid point on the scale of the redevelopment that is planned, which will be over a significant timescale; potentially up to eight years. The issues, frankly, are that some residential accommodation is probably the most urgent priority, given things like the lack of sanitation. It is possible to do some of the learning and skills operations in less than ideal buildings, but, frankly, we cannot continue to expect people to live in temporary buildings and Nissen huts.

Photo of Cathal Ó hOisín Cathal Ó hOisín Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire. I thank the Minister for his answers. The Department was to engage with stakeholders in the area. Will the Minister give us an update on progress there?

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

Mr Ó hOisín is right: the Department was to engage with stakeholders, and it did so, including with local businesses and local councils in terms of providing opportunities for rehabilitation.

My understanding is that 30 prisoners from Foyleview, the semi-open unit, are out working regularly in the community with charities such as Barnardo's and the Riding for the Disabled Association, businesses, churches and with a variety of other bodies. There are placements with the health and social care trusts in Coleraine and Greysteel. There are also three current prisoner placements with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, which builds on the work done originally with Limavady, Coleraine and Ballymoney councils, as they then were. All of these are good examples of work being done. One of the key factors in keeping the prison at Magilligan was to build on those local opportunities. I am pleased to see that we have made progress over the last couple of years.

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

How much have the finance figures changed for the redevelopment since the initial costs were put in for the project?

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

The answer to any capital programme in terms of things starting at an early phase and being considered over a period of years is that costs will increase. Part of the issue is because of the higher expectations of the facilities that would be provided. I do not have the figures immediately before me, but I will certainly write to the Member and give the current update on the figures. It is certainly a very significant programme, but it is required to ensure that Magilligan can fulfil its responsibility to rehabilitate prisoners and not merely incarcerate them.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Within the priorities of the Department as to capital spend on prisons, will the Minister tell us where the Magilligan project ranks?

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

The reality is that, as I have just said — and I will repeat for Mr Allister — there are requirements in all three prison units. There is a specific requirement for a proper facility for women, which will build on the work currently being done in Ash House in Hydebank Wood and the step-down facility being built elsewhere on the Hydebank Wood site. <BR/>There is a specific need for more residential accommodation and a plan for a significant cell block at Maghaberry. There is a need for a complete rehabilitation of Magilligan, which has, effectively, only one modern residential block with the rest of it still largely based on temporary buildings that were put up in the 1970s. All of those have to be considered together, and the Prison Service has a plan for phasing all three of those operations. However, what funding is available is clearly a significant issue for DFP and the Executive.