Northern Ireland needs more prison spaces

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Northern Ireland’s largest prison, HMP Maghaberry, is back in the headlines.

The public will be interested in developments at the high-security site, but not in the way that the media might think.

There seem to be endless inspections and reports and accusations, and some political critics of the system seem inordinately concerned with the rights of prisoners.

What is needed in terms of prison provision in the Province is simple. We need to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens by locking up serious criminal offenders for long periods of time.

We also need to protect the welfare of the men and women who police the prisons.

We need more prison spaces so that courts can increase the sentences that they give to the most serious offenders. Do not be fooled when you hear that a violent thug has been sentenced to four years behind bars. He hasn’t. The likelihood is he will be out after two and offending again in next to no time.

We need possibly a new prison in Northern Ireland – that would be a good use of taxpayers’ funds.

Prisons should be secure, in that demonstrations are put down swiftly and prison staff get all the back-up facilities that they need.

Searches must be carried out extensively, and perhaps increased in frequency and vigour, to stamp out drug problems within prisons.

Prison is not and must never become a holiday camp.

Also, the dissident terrorist agitators (and their apologists) must be faced down each time they start their threat-laced protests. A long-serving prison officer, David Black, lost his life at the hands of these killers and no-one was brought to justice for that heinous crime.

If Northern Ireland’s prisons fall short in safety standards, then the solution must come in the form of beefed-up security.