Prison Service Director General Sue McAllister has said that the ongoing reform of the Prison Service will deliver sustainable change which will lead to positive outcomes for prisoners.
She was responding to the publication of inspection reports on prison establishments at Ash House (female prison) and the Young Offenders Centre, both of which are located on the Hydebank Wood complex, which were conducted by a multi-disciplinary team between 18-22 February of this year.
The Inspectorate found significant failings in both establishments and have made a range of recommendations in relation to performance against the internationally recognised ‘healthy prison’ standards of safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement.
In thanking the Inspectorate for the reports, Mrs McAllister said: “Whilst I acknowledge the negative findings of both reports, it must be borne in mind that this inspection was carried out at what was a very challenging time for the Prison Service, particularly at Hydebank Wood.
“There was no permanent occupancy of either the post of Governor or Deputy Governor, while many experienced officers at the prison had either left or were in the process of leaving under the Prison Service Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme.
“Since this inspection was undertaken there have been major changes. A new management team is in place, supported by a Director of Offender Policy and Operations and a Director of Rehabilitation, both of which are based at headquarters. Issues of drug misuse are now tackled in a dynamic, intelligence led manner and exciting plans for the creation of a Secure College, which will concentrate on the provision of essential skills for prisoners enhancing their prospects of employment post release, are under development.”
Speaking specifically in relation to the female facility at Ash House, Mrs McAllister said: “It is clear that the co-location of the female prison on the same site as the Young Offenders Centre is far from ideal and this no doubt heavily influenced the overall conclusions of the report. The Prison Service is committed to providing a new separate facility for women offenders, combining both custodial provision for those who must be held safely and securely, while at the same time endeavouring to offer community based alternative to those offenders who are judged more suitable to such an environment."
Mrs McAllister said that the inspectors had found many elements of good practice in both Ash House and the Young Offenders Centre and it was important that this was recognised.
She said: “Offender management arrangements were found to be good and it was laudable that prisoners had a dedicated sentence manager. I recognise the positive findings in relation to library and faith provision and welcome the improvements to mental health services at the site”
In conclusion Mrs McAllister said that while Hydebank Wood had its own unique issues, addressing many of the concerns raised by the Inspectorate were being addressed as part of the wider reform programme.
She said: “The recommendations of the Prison Review Team, published in 2011, are and will remain the key driver for change across the Service. These reports have uncovered failings at these particular establishments and I, and my Reform Team, will be working with the management of Hydebank Wood to improve overall standards in a way which will lead to a reduction in re-offending through the creation of better opportunities for prisoners.”
Notes to editors
1. The inspections of Ash House and the Young Offenders Centre were undertaken by a multi-disciplinary team from Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority and The Education and Training Inspectorate.
2. The inspection team have made a total of 156 recommendations, including 11 main recommendations, across both reports.
3. At unlock on 30 September 2013 there were 169 young men between the ages 18-21 inclusive at the Young Offenders Centre and 59 females in Ash House.
4. The inspection reports for Ash House and the Young Offenders Centre will be available for download from 01 October on the following website; http://www.dojni.gov.uk/index/ni-prison-service/nips-publications/criminal-justice-inspection-reports-for-ash-house-and-hydebank-young-offenders-centre.htm