Magilligan Prison in County Londonderry is due to close, and the existing prison officers will be made redundant, according to reports.
The prisoners will apparently be relocated to another prison in County Antrim. This has raised a few questions as the Maghaberry Prison, where the prisoners will be shifted, is already overcrowded.
The UK has privatised prisons, but there is opposition in communities where this is happening. Nonetheless, this has not deterred the Government from handing out contracts to private security contractors, including the controversial G4S. However, with Britain in the midst of leaving the EU, the renewal of contracts has slowed down.
Plans are afoot to construct a new prison block next to Maghaberry Prison, but this has been affected by an ownership dispute. While the exact date to shut down Magilligan Prison is not known, the 400 inmates will be transferred to the high-security Maghaberry Prison with the help of a private security contractor. Hundreds of people are expected to lose their jobs.
One prison officer, who refused to be named, stated that the relocation of prisoners will mean that low-security prisoners will be housed with some of the worst prisoners in Northern Ireland. The prison officer also pointed out that the prison service does not know whether they own the land on which the low-security prison is being built.
Stephen Boyes from Maghaberry claims that the land belongs to him as it was placed in a trust by his grandfather. However, the prison service states that they are the lawful owners of the land. Both parties have refused to back down rather than come to an agreement.
Safety takes a backseat
Another prison officer pointed out that in this dispute, the safety of staff and prisoners has been sidelined as Maghaberry Prison does not have an emergency exit. The prison officer claimed that if something awful happened in the prison, it would put prisoners and staff in extreme danger, but at the moment, the decision-makers don’t seem to be worried.