JUSTICE Minister Claire Sugden today cut the first sod in preparation for the construction of a new cell block at Maghaberry Prison.
A high security facility housing adult male prisoners, Maghaberry is the largest of three prisons that make up the Northern Ireland Prison Service.
The new accommodation block, costing £55million, will include 360 cells on three levels and is expected to be completed by 2019.
Claire Sugden said: “This occasion marks an important step in the development of the prison estate in Northern Ireland.
“The new block will deliver modern and fit for purpose accommodation and allow at least three old square house blocks to be closed.
“Its design and specification will improve efficiency and create a decent and respectful environment for both staff and prisoners.
“This represents a significant investment in Maghaberry which will eventually see the site developing as three mini prisons.”
On her first visit to Maghaberry, the Minister was joined by Director General of the NI Prison Service Sue McAllister and also met the new Maghaberry Governor, Stephen Davis.
The Governor gave an overview of the establishment and outlined the ongoing work at the prison to deliver a safe, decent and secure environment for the rehabilitation of prisoners.
Sue McAllister said: “Investment in the prison estate in Northern Ireland is fundamental to the ongoing modernisation of the prison service.
“The creation of an additional 360 cell accommodation block at Maghaberry is a one key element of NIPS strategy to deliver a fit for purpose estate.
“Modern and well-designed accommodation encourages positive engagement between staff and prisoners and facilitates the delivery of better tailored regimes to assist prisoners in addressing their offending behaviour.”