Magilligan replacement being decided on “biased criteria”?

An interesting note from the NI Affairs Committee, who are currently taking evidence in their review of The Northern Ireland Prison Service and, specifically, a replacement for Magilligan Prison – which is, of course, a reserved matter. According to the BBC report, the Committee’s Chairman, Sir Patrick Cormack, whilst questioning the use of “biased criteria”, has revealed that a senior prison official told the committee one of the essential criteria was that the new jail was within 30 miles of Belfast.. which would rule out rebuilding at Magilligan. That’s despite the fact that the review was welcomed in February by the Prison Service – “As part of our Strategic Development Programme the Prison Service is looking at possible locations for the replacement prison, including the existing site at Magilligan.” And that, as well the review of a replacement for Magilligan Prison being announced back in September 2005, in January this year, as noted on Slugger, the NI Prison Service acknowledged that the Independent Monitoring Board’s recommendation was Adds To clarify, the following quote is from the statement by Director of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, Robin Masefield, in which he states

“The condition of the physical estate at Magilligan Prison was a major issue for the Board, which has recommended that a new facility should be built on the Magilligan site. We have accepted that there is a need for a replacement prison and much work is in hand to take forward the Service’s estate strategy. Ministers hope to be in a position to indicate the way forward shortly.”

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  • slug

    There is a good site near Lisburn, looking for a use.

  • joeCanuck

    Not only a good site but an experienced one.

  • joeCanuck

    Joking aside, a prison should be built close to the centre of gravity of the incarcerated population to ease the burden of visiting (innocent) relatives.
    That would suggest somewhere around Antrim I would think.
    Who owns Nutts Corner these days?

  • miss fitz

    Just a note of clarification. The quote you attribute to the IMB above was actually a statement from Robin Masefield on his acceptance of the IMB reports. A small but highly significant point, as the IMB would not have been in a position to make the statement as it stands above.

  • Pete Baker

    Miss Fitz

    My clumsy sentence is at fault there.. but I did try to attribute the actual quote to the NI Prison Service.

    And it is they, in the form of Robin Masefield, who said that the Board’s recommendation was that “a new facility should be built on the Magilligan site.”

  • miss fitz

    I was just clarifying that the IMB is Independent and separate from the Prison Service, and as you rightly say, the Director was simply highlighting an issue raised in the Magilligan Board’s annual report.

    Cheers Pete

  • Dread Cthulhu

    joeCanuck: “Joking aside, a prison should be built close to the centre of gravity of the incarcerated population to ease the burden of visiting (innocent) relatives. ”

    No. The prison should be built in the place that best balances the needs of security, expense and social concerns, suitable for the number and class of criminals intended to populate the facility. There should be no one single attribute over-weighted in the process once the “who” of the prison is determined.

    You don’t put first time, non-violent offenders in a super-max facility, nor do you put hardened incorrigible thugs in the British equivalent of a “club fed.”

    Figure out who you plan to incarcerate and the details will almost figure themselves out.

    Oh, and ease of family visiting should not be a major consideration — make it too easy and some may decide it a good idea to pick up their loved ones early…

  • joeCanuck

    Ok. Let’s build it on Rathlin Island then.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    joeCanuck: “Ok. Let’s build it on Rathlin Island then.”

    It is likely not economical to do so. Similarly, I didn’t say it shouldn’t be a consideration, just that it shouldn’t be a major consideration. As much as I like the idea of Alcatraz as a concept — as close to 100% control of the population (in a macro sense), the need to shuttle *everything* to the island and the shift away from the notion of prisons paying for themselves made it uneconomical.

    The fact that I pointed out it should be a balancing act apparently escaped you. If the balance must be tipped, it should tip in favor of protecting the public, not making life easy for the cons.

  • Or send them to Rockall?

    But seriously – why are they closing down the Maze when the country is so short of prison spaces?

  • joeCanuck

    I was being facetious Rory.
    I agree that protection of the public is paramount and i didn’t intend in my original post that closeness to family should predominate.
    There are, of course, many things to consider as you have pointed out.

  • joeCanuck

    sorry, Dread not Rory.