New £54m prison block marks innovative next chapter for Maghaberry

Date published: 17 October 2019

The official opening of a new £54m accommodation block at Maghaberry marks the beginning of a new era for the Prison Service, the Head of the Civil Service has said.

Ronnie Armour pictured at the opening of Davis House
Pictured at Davis House are (from left) Ronnie Armour, Director General of the Northern Prison Service, David Kennedy, Governor Maghaberry Prison, David Sterling, Head of NI Civil Service and Peter May, Permanent Secretary, Department of Justice

Speaking today from Davis House, a state of the art facility incorporating 372 cells, David Sterling said: “Davis House marks the beginning of a new and innovative chapter for the Prison Service. It will support the staff at Maghaberry and its partners in delivering key Programme for Government priorities, not just in relation to justice but also in terms of healthcare, education, skills and employability.”  

Built by Magherafelt based construction company, Henry Brothers Ltd, Davis House is named after the late Stephen Davis, Governor of Maghaberry, who passed away in 2017. It is the largest capital build undertaken by the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) in over 30 years and the largest within the Department of Justice since it was established in 2010.

Paying tribute to everyone involved in delivering the project on time and on budget, David Sterling added: “The scale and complexity of the building is very impressive; and it clearly demonstrates how the public sector can efficiently deliver major capital projects. From design through development to completion, this has been a real team effort which has created local jobs, making a significant contribution to the Northern Ireland economy.”

Among the 372 cells within Davis House are 24 observation cells, eight listener cells and eight universal access cells.  The building also houses a 12 bed ‘safer cell unit’ equipped for vulnerable prisoners. 

Ronnie Armour, Director General of the NI Prison Service said: “The opening of Davis House is a hugely significant day for everyone in the Prison Service. The building has been designed to put rehabilitation at the centre of everything we do and to support those who are vulnerable and have particular needs.   

“Just over three years ago Maghaberry was described as unsafe, unstable and one of the most dangerous prisons in Europe.  Inspectors now say it is delivering some of the best outcomes it has seen.  Davis House is the next step in Maghaberry’s evolution.

“This investment will help the Prison Service, and our partners, to support and challenge the men in our care to change.  That is our primary role, and that is how we play our part in building a safer community.”

Notes to editors: 

1.    Maghaberry Prison is the only Category ‘A’ prison in Northern Ireland and also operates as a remand prison for all adult male prisoners in the country. It accommodates a range of sentenced prisoners such as life sentence, indeterminate and extended custody prisoners, separated prisoners, fine defaulters and civil prisoners.

2.    At 15 October 2019, there were 921 prisoners at Maghaberry Prison.

3.    This new £54m cellular accommodation was designed, procured and project managed by CPD on behalf of NI Prison Service.

4.    Key to the development of Davis House has been our design research and seeks to improve the wellbeing of our staff and outcomes for those in our care. Prison Service researched a wide range of design sources, including hospitals, therapeutic centres, studies on trauma informed design, studies on designing for older people, and studies on autism friendly spaces, where the relationship between people and their environment is a key element to their recovery.

5.    The following are examples of the design approach within Davis House:

➢ Use of colours and different types of material to help create a sense of individual space and soften security critical features;

➢  the building has open, bright areas, wide landings, different zones with clear distinction between learning, health and leisure activity, large and small communal areas;

➢  Research shows access to the land has been shown to increase self-efficacy and self-worth and to decrease anxiety and importantly to reduce recidivism rates.  Davis House provides prisoners with a choice of external recreational and horticulture areas with views to the countryside;

➢  Cell design provides an element of control for occupants.  As research shows the absence of control can increase stress, prisoners in Davis House will be able to control the lights, open windows, and have the use of in-cell sanitation including shower facilities;

➢  Access to personal in cell computers to book appointments etc. will create personal independence and help redirect officers’ work to engagement and rehabilitation.  


6.The design will realise staff savings, reduce overcrowding, create a safe & secure environment, and increase prisoner engagement and support rehabilitation.

7.  For all media enquiries, please contact the DOJ Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110 and your call will be returned.



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