Inspectors demand Hydebank overhaul
A major overhaul is required of the regimes in a young offenders' centre and women's prison in Northern Ireland, inspectors have found.
While staff have worked hard to improve the situation at Hydebank Wood in south Belfast in the wake of previous damning inspections, further progress cannot be made unless radical action is taken, according to Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI).
Inspectors said the young offenders centre at Hydebank is still not a suitable facility to hold children and the situation in the Ash House women's accommodation on the same site reiterated the need for a separate women's prison to be built in Northern Ireland.
Chief Inspector of CJINI Dr Michael Maguire said: "Staff at both facilities are to be commended for the efforts they have made to deliver improvements since our last inspections and indeed some progress has been made.
"However it is our considered view that further and substantial improvements in each facility are not possible in the current operating environments at both the Women's Prison and the Young Offenders Centre. The improvements are welcome but they are no substitute for the overhaul required in both centres."
Inspectors, returning to view progress since critical reports in 2007, made another 100 recommendations in respect of the young offenders' centre and 90 in respect of the women's prison.
The inspections were carried out in March this year by the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority and The Education and Training Inspectorate and were unannounced follow-ups to full inspections carried out four years ago.
Justice Minister David Ford said: "While I am encouraged by the progress made since 2007, there is still more work to be done."
The Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, Colin McConnell said: "Our service is at a critical time. Staff are working hard towards getting right the basics of providing safe, decent and secure custody for offenders in our care. An essential ingredient of getting the basics right is providing purposeful activity aimed at reducing the risk of re-offending on release.
"These reports further reinforce the importance of that issue. I am encouraged by the improvements but like the minister, I remain committed to making the further improvements the chief inspector and his team have recommended. "