Ulster Unionist Justice Spokesperson Doug Beattie MC MLA has again called for an end to the separated prison regime in Northern Ireland following the news that the Prison Service is spending almost half a million pounds of public money to house three prisoners at Hydebank Women’s prison.
Doug Beattie MC MLA said:
“The revelation that the Prison Service has spent almost half a million pounds of public money to house three prisoners at Hydebank Women’s prison is obscene and will quite rightly be met with anger by the public.
“In Northern Ireland we have allowed the development of a justice system that seems to be labouring under the misapprehension that the prison system should be run to suit the needs and wants of prisoners, rather than for them to be punished for their crimes.
“It is simply crazy that the Executive should be spending millions of pounds on ‘Together Building a United Community’ (TBUC) projects, whilst at the same time spending millions of pounds at Maghaberry and now Hydebank to perpetuate a separated prison regime.
“To understand this wanton waste of public funds we need to realise that £2million is spent annually on the separated regime in HMP Maghaberry. This is to the detriment to other prisoners. Now a further £482,000 has been spent to house 3 female prisoners and this does not take into account the extra annual running costs at a time when our homeless, disabled, disadvantaged and vulnerable are crying out for resources.
“The public should also note that in December 2016 I brought forward a motion in the Assembly to end the separated prison regime and the category of a ‘politically motivated offender.’ This proposed a gradual change to be delivered over 8 years with the first phase - stopping the admission of prisoners into the separated regime - being proposed for this year. Had it been passed we would not be squandering monies like this.
“However, for some reason, the DUP and Sinn Fein both chose to say no, and as a result, anyone jailed for crimes that can include drug dealing and extortion is able to continue to claim their crimes are politically motivated, and avail of a separated regime at huge cost to the taxpayer.
“22 years on from the Belfast Agreement, it is long past time that organised crime gangs were denied the right to claim political motivation for their crimes and get preferential treatment in jail. If the Justice Minister wants to do anything about this disgraceful situation, I can assure her that the Ulster Unionist Party will give her our total backing.”