Ronnie Armour: Report demonstrates we are on the right path and doing the right things
"Outcomes for the men are now among the best we have seen in recent years." That is how inspectors have described Maghaberry Prison in a report published today. In stark contrast to three years ago, the prison is described as safe and respectful with resettlement and rehabilitation at its core.
While we must continue to improve in some areas highlighted, it is a credit to all those who work at Maghaberry that the prison has made such progress.
The role of the Prison Service is to support and challenge those placed in our care to change; to address their offending behaviour and to prepare them for resettlement back into our community.
The progress at Maghaberry has been led by the Governor David Kennedy and his senior team who have shown energy and determination in working to turn what was a failing prison around.
It is therefore very encouraging to read the words of the Chief Inspector when he says: "We rarely see a prison make the sort of progress evident at Maghaberry." Building on the work of his predecessor, the late Stephen Davis, Governor Kennedy, working with his staff, has ensured Maghaberry achieved the progress reported today.
Prisons are challenging places to work and live, and sometimes hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. Those in our care sometimes have complex needs and challenging behaviours with issues of mental health increasingly coming to the fore. We need to understand such issues better as we work with our partners, particularly in healthcare. The challenge we face should not be underestimated as issues faced in our society are concentrated in prisons.
Today's report is hugely encouraging and demonstrates we are on the right path and doing the right things. On what is an important day for the service, I want to acknowledge the professionalism, commitment and compassion of prison officers and those who work alongside them.
The past few years have been difficult for Maghaberry; but this report demonstrates that the prison is now playing a full part in building a safer Northern Ireland.
Ronnie Armour is Director General of NI Prison Service