All the 'mod cons' at HMP Magilligan

EIGHTY-FIVE prisoners at HMP Magilligan had access to satellite television in Foyleview and Sperrin Houses whilst 448 cells in the jail were furnished with TVs and 214 with Stereo Systems in June this year, the Sentinel can reveal.

Last week the Sentinel revealed 14,000 was spent on TV for Magilligan prisoners in 2009/10. Now the paper can reveal further details of how inmates in the County Londonderry prison entertain themselves whilst serving their sentences.

All prisoners in the jail are entitled to watch BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Five whilst a limited number are entitled to watch Sky films and other content, the Sentinel reported last week.

Now further details released by the Northern Ireland Prison Service Records and Information Management Team show that 379 cells in the jail were furnished with DVD players - 357 TV/DVD combis and 22 DVD players.

The data released under Freedom of Information legislation carried the proviso that NIPS does not furnish any cells in any prison with TV's or Stereo Systems but prisoners on a progressive regime have the opportunity to earn the right to rent/buy a TV at a cost.

In Magilligan prisoners can only rent TVs. However, prisoners who have bought TVs in Maghaberry and are transferred to Magilligan use these TVs in their cells and are not charged a rental fee of 1.00.

In June there were seven prisoners in Magilligan with their own TVs which they purchased in Maghaberry.

In relation to the 214 sound systems in the jail many would have been bought from the Tuck-shop at an approximate cost of 41.32.

And insofar as watching satellite TV was concerned, only in Foyleview and Sperrin Houses was this permitted.

"In Foyleview House they have a communal TV with access to Sky Basic and Sky Sports," the documents revealed. "In Sperrin House, prisoners have access to 2 communal TV's with access to Sky Basic and Sky Sports."

"While prisoners and inmates in the houses outlined have access to Sky subscription channels it should be pointed out that access is strictly controlled by staff and limited in nature.

"On any given evening prisoners have access to only one subscription channel (eg to watch a film) and this channel is selected

by staff, having consulted with prisoners.

"This choice is generic - the same programme is shown to all prisoners and they cannot watch an alternative one (other than on terrestrial TV) if they are unhappy with the selected programme."

As reported last week subscriptions to satellite television were funded from the Governors Fund (Prisoner Amenities Fund), accrued from Tuck-shop profits, recycling initiatives and the prisoner telephone system: it is not subsidised by the public purse.

In advance of the digital switchover here - expected in 2012 - plans are ongoing to introduce digital TV to the jail.

"A project is ongoing at the moment to identify the costs of installing digital television in the establishments in regard to expanding aerial capability and potential requirement for digital capable televisions. It is still too early to determine the cost of this," it was confirmed.

The packages and thee amount of digital sets to be installed in each jail is currently being examined.