Millions of pounds will be spent on upgrading Magilligan Jail — even though it’s been earmarked for closure as part of a major reform programme announced recently.
Documents released to this newspaper under Freedom of Information also disclose how a further £5.1m was spent on the facility in the past five years — part of a near-£16m spend on repair at the jail between 2007 and 2014.
MLA Adrian McQuillan said the expenditure “defied logic”.
“It seems very silly to spend £16m on a prison and then to close it,” he said. “The sums don’t add up. Public money is scarce as it is. It defies logic.”
Since April 2007, £11.6m has been spent on the facility, including £832,000 in the last 12 months. Around half that total — £5.4m — went on maintenance and repair with another £5.1m on major refurbishment.
A further £4.3m in repairs and upgrades has been earmarked for the next three years.
The jail will be decommissioned from 2018 under a 10-year programme of reform, thought to be costing in the region of £240m.
However, Mr McQuillan, an MLA for East Londonderry, said he would fight “tooth and nail” against the closure: “There is no logic to it at all. This provides around 400 jobs in the area. We cannot do without those jobs.
“It is the wrong decision to close Magilligan, but to spend £16m and then close it makes the decision 10 times worse.”
A Prison Service spokesman said Magilligan will not be decommissioned until 2018, adding: “The Prison Service has an obligation to ensure that it meets operational needs,” he said.
“Two essential capital projects are planned. The first is to maintain security and safety standards by upgrading the Control Room and the second is a night unlock system in the H-Blocks in Magilligan to maintain appropriate standards of decency.
“As with any prison, routine maintenance will still be incurred until the site is decommissioned.”
Magilligan opened its gates 40 years ago and holds over 500 low to medium-risk male prisoners, who have six years or less to serve. Most inmates are held in three H-blocks, which inspectors are understood to have described as unfit for purpose.