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Ulster Unionist Justice spokesman Tom Elliott MLA has rejected proposals to close Magilligan Prison in County Londonderry and invest £250 million in Prison reform including the construction of a new Prison near to Maghaberry.

Mr Elliott, who represents Fermanagh & South Tyrone, said:

“The public will be shocked at the news that David Ford wants to spend £240 million of taxpayers money on a ten year programme of Prison reform and as part of this, close Magilligan Prison and construct a new prison near Maghaberry close to the existing jail.

Clearly some people will not be satisfied until every public sector job in Northern Ireland is located within fifteen miles of Belfast.

There are approximately 400 jobs dependent on Magilligan and the loss to the economy of Limavady and neighbouring towns would be in the region of £10 million per annum. This would have an horrendous impact.  

The claim that the new prison needs to be closer to Belfast to make it easier for the prisoners families to visit them, highlights everything that is wrong with prison policy.

In the first place, not all the prisoners in Magilligan are from the greater Belfast area. It may have escaped Mr Ford’s notice, but people living in the rest of Northern Ireland do commit offences too.

Secondly, it is touching that the Prison authorities should show such concern for the inconvenience suffered by prisoners’ families. It is just a pity the prisoners hadn’t shown concern about the victims of the crimes which they committed and which caused them to be jailed in the first place.

Prison isn’t meant to be easy and it isn’t meant to be convenient. Its meant to punish. I honestly believe that some of the do-gooders wont be happy until we put prisoners up in a five star hotel and hand them the keys.  

To spend £240 million on prisoners at a time when our hospitals and schools are being crying out for funding and our old people are facing a choice between heating and eating is nothing short of scandalous.

Northern Ireland does not need a new prison at Maghaberry. David Ford and his officials must be told to build a new prison at Magilligan.”

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