Belfast Telegraph

Prison reform scrutiny panel chosen

Leading figures from Northern Ireland's police and human rights sectors are to oversee the implementation of major reform of the prison service.

The appointment of Monica McWilliams, who recently ended her term as head of the Human Rights Commission, and retired Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland, was confirmed by justice minister David Ford.

The Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland Michael Maguire, whose organisation has carried out some of the most high-profile probes into the justice system in recent years, will also sit on the Prisons Reform Oversight Group.

The ministerial-led oversight body was recommended in the final report of the Review of the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) led by Dame Anne Owers and will also include Department of Justice Permanent Secretary Nick Perry and a non-executive director of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

All aspects of the prison service face a major overhaul following a series of damning reviews of the system. The oversight group is expected to hold its first meeting early in the new year.

Mr Ford said: "The establishment of this oversight group marks a step change in the pace of reform of the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS).

"Since the publication of the Owers Report, a staff exit scheme has been launched and the Donard Day Care Centre, which transforms how NIPS manages, supports and cares for the most vulnerable prisoners, opened at Maghaberry."

Also in line with the Owers Report, the prison service has appointed an organisational change manager.

Colin Bennett will report to Director General Colin McConnell on the implementation of the Strategic Efficiency and Effectiveness Programme (SEE) aimed at transforming the service.

Mr McConnell said: "The Owers report sets out very clearly why NIPS must be reformed and the SEE Programme details how it will be reformed over the next four years. The appointment of an experienced organisational change manager is central to translating the detail of the reform programme into reality on the ground."

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