Published Monday, 23 April 2012
A 240-cell block at Maghaberry is to be set up in the short term. (© UTV)
The Prison Estates Review is recommending that a new medium security jail is built closer to Maghaberry Prison within the next six years.
It is part of a programme of reforms that could cost almost £250m.
Justice Minister David Ford said they are aimed at developing a modern, "fit for purpose" prison estate for the region.
"Some of our prison estate is reaching the end of its working life and this strategy addresses what our options are to maintain secure custody for the prison population," the Alliance minster said.
"The strategy proposes that a new medium security prison should be developed in a central location and Magilligan Prison decommissioned from 2018 onwards.
"The strategy also proposes that in the short-term we build a new 240 cell accommodation block at Maghaberry with longer term plans to zone the prison based on security requirements."
HMP Magilligan, was opened in 1972 close to Limavady in the north west and has an operational capacity of 452 prisoners.
The DUP says that with £4m already spent on the site, and further £2m spend proposed in the Prison Estate strategy, it would be "ludicrous" to close it down.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said: "It is sensible both economically and also logistically to have a prison in the north west as well as a prison in the east of the province.
"This facility provides crucial employment in that community and such concerns should be to the forefront of this Alliance Minister's mind as he considers the Strategy.
"It would be ludicrous to spend £6million on the existing site, close it and then buy land to build a new Prison".
Paul Givan, DUP Chairman of the Justice Committee, added: "No-one is opposed to spending money to ensure that our prisons are secure and fit for purpose, however my constituents will question if it is appropriate to spend £250m on improving facilities for criminals at a time when hospitals and schools are facing pressures."
Plans for the future of Northern Ireland's prisons are to be discussed at the Justice Committee at Stormont on Thursday.