Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Less talking, more action on prisons

The latest report on prison conditions in two centres in Northern Ireland makes disturbing reading, following earlier suicides by two young prisoners within a short time of one another. prisoners considered to be at risk of self-harm or suicide.

A damning report by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority included no fewer than 113 recommendations, and revealed alarming failings in the care and management of

Of particular concern is the revelation that the deaths of two young prisoners came shortly after an inspection of facilities posed serious questions about the safety of inmates. Conditions for prisoners in Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre and Ash House Women's Prison were highlighted, and concern was expressed that despite the dangers posed by using metal beds as a ligature point in attempting suicides, no action had been taken.

The RQIA Report recommended that a detailed assessment should be made in relation to the availability of ligature points by the Northern Ireland Prison Service in conjunction with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust. It was further recommended this should include a detailed action and management plan. In light of the suicides and attempted suicides of prisoners, it is scarcely comprehensible that measures to protect prisoners have been delayed by bureaucratic red tape.

A spokesperson for the Trust has claimed that many of the recommendations have been addressed, and a representative from the Prison Service has indicated that remedial action is already under way. However there seems to be an overall lack of urgency in dealing with a situation where prisoners remain in danger of harming themselves and of taking their own lives.

Jim Wells, the Deputy Chairman of the Stormont Health Committee and a member of the Justice Committee, has said that mental health provision for prisoners in Northern Ireland must be urgently addressed. The reports from various committees and investigatory bodies point a way ahead. Nevertheless little enough seems to have been actually done to help prisoners who are a danger to themselves. Decisive action rather than endless talking is urgently required.

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