Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Money spent on prison 'scandalous'

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has announced a review of the Thornton Hall jail project in north Dublin

A scandalous amount of money has been spent on the new super-prison in north Dublin, the Justice Minister has said.

Alan Shatter revealed 45 million euro has been forked out on preparations for the new Thornton Hall jail without a single brick being laid.

He said a group to review the controversial prison project will be appointed next week, adding: "It is intended that the review will be completed by July 1 and decisions will be made as to whether this project proceeds."

The state forked out almost 30 million euro on the site in north Co Dublin after signing a deal in 2005 - with the remainder spent on professional and consultancy fees, landscaping, provisions for services, security and surveys.

Then-justice minister Michael McDowell was fiercely criticised over the sale after claims it was bought for eight times the market rate at the time. The original plans involving a private consortium were shelved two years ago because the state could no longer afford it.

Mr Shatter said cost is one of the issues that will form part of the review, saying: "There has been an enormous, extraordinary and in my view a scandalous amount of money spent on Thornton Hall, in particular the money spent on the acquisition of the site. But this money has been spent."

"We must ensure that if we continue with the project that it not only makes economic sense but it makes sense in the context of the development of the prison service."

The controversial super-prison was to house 2,200 inmates in 1,400 cells - but the previous government was last year forced to scale back its scheme and announced it would complete it in three phases, with the first 400 cells holding just 700 prisoners due to open by 2014.

The minister said he also has major concerns over substantial pressures on the prison service and the rate of recidivism, saying: "There have been too many prisoners by my predecessors in government granted temporary release because of the pressures within the prison system and that has to be addressed as quickly as possible.

"But I also have to ensure in the current financial climate that we marshal our financial resources in a way that's efficient, that makes sense and that will provide us with the type of prison system that not only provides the additional cell spaces needed, but a prison service system that is truly reflective of 21st century values and addresses needs."

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