Jail­birds and real birds are a healthy mix

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY STAFF RE­PORTER

EL­DERLY in­mates at a North­ern Ire­land prison are be­ing in­tro­duced to hor­ti­cul­ture and bird-keep­ing as part of a new re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and health­ier life­style project.

Dozens of pris­on­ers aged between 50 and 79 at Mag­illi­gan are be­ing en­cour­aged to grow veg­eta­bles and flow­ers in a recre­ation area that also houses an aviary.

Pota­toes, car­rots and leeks are among the veg­eta­bles be­ing grown in raised wooden gar­den boxes to give pris­on­ers, and es­pe­cially those in wheel­chairs, easy ac­cess. In the aviary — built by the pris­on­ers — bud­gies, cock­atiels, finches and quail are also be­ing cared for.

Mag­illi­gan Prison gover­nor Gary Milling said: “So­cial iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness are real is­sues for many se­nior pris­on­ers and can of­ten lead to men­tal health is­sues.

“But by en­cour­ag­ing a more ac­tive, phys­i­cal life­style, we can help ward off or lessen some of the health chal­lenges.”

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