Inspectors publish findings of inspection of Magilligan Prison


Leadership and staff at Magilligan Prison have been commended by Inspectors for their efforts to successfully protect prisoners and colleagues during the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining a regime where time out of cell for prisoners was retained for much of the day.

“The arrangement adopted at Magilligan to keep prisoners unlocked for much of the day was in marked contrast to the approach adopted in England and Wales, which saw prisoners spending long periods locked in their cells.  The arrangement had, to a great extent, been respected by prisoners,” said CJI Chief Inspector Jacqui Durkin.

However, Ms Durkin said action was required to address a key concern around the availability of illicit and diverted prescription drugs at Magilligan Prison and the Governor and his team need to work at pace with partners to safely recover the prison regime from the COVID-19 restrictions so it is more closely aligned with that of the community and improve outcomes for prisoners.

“Half of all prisoners who responded to the prisoner survey told us they had a drug problem before arriving at Magilligan and 32% of prisoners, compared with 16% at the time of our last inspection in 2017, said they developed a problem with illicit drugs since they came to Magilligan.  This issue needs an effective strategy and action plan to address it that helps prevent both the flow of illicit drugs into the prison and the diversion of prescription medication within the prison from those who should be taking it to those who shouldn’t,” said the Chief Inspector.

Ms Durkin also urged Magilligan to encourage Education providers from Belfast Met and North West Regional College and other voluntary and community sector partners to safely return to Magilligan and re-engage in delivering learning and other opportunities to deliver better prisoner outcomes.  

“We found that while prisoners at Magilligan were unlocked for most of the day, there was very little for them to do,” she said.

Inspectors have also recommended that steps be taken to improve both monitoring and and maintenance of standards of cleanliness and hygienic practice in residential units after concerns were raised by  health care Inspectors from the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority.

Ms Durkin said that assessments against three of the four healthy prison tests had declined compared to 2017 results and largely reflected the limitations imposed by the pandemic.  Safety, respect and rehabilitation and release planning were assessed as ‘reasonably good,’ with purposeful activity assessed as ‘not sufficiently good’ in 2021. 

Inspectors have made 30 recommendations for improvement in the report.