Prison segregation regime 'a festering sore'
Segregating paramilitary inmates is like a "festering sore" on Northern Ireland's troubled prison system, a senior criminal justice inspector has claimed.
Brendan McGuigan said the separated regime for dissident republicans and loyalists at Maghaberry jail was a disproportionate drain on resources that required a radical new approach.
He said: "For the complexity of Maghaberry as it sits itself, and to have at the heart of it a separated regime that you are trying to manage, then it will always be like a festering sore or something that is distracting the management in terms of what needs to happen in the wider prison."
Last week, a damning report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) branded Maghaberry, near Lisburn "a prison in crisis", with "unsafe and unstable" conditions.
Mr McGuigan, who co-authored the report, appeared before Stormont's justice committee to discuss the findings.
He told MLAs the current system was "unfair and untenable".
"The location of separated paramilitary prisoners in Maghaberry was also an issue," said Mr McGuigan.
"They are taking up a disproportionate amount of senior management attention and resources to deliver an unrestricted regime often at the expense of the rest of the prison population."
Sue McAllister, director general of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, was also quizzed by the committee.
She said: "It was a very disappointing report and we have no intention of underplaying the seriousness of what the inspectors found."