Justice Minister David Ford MLA has responded to the publication of the unannounced inspection of Maghaberry Prison carried out earlier this year.
The Minister stated that progress has been made in many areas since the inspection took place in May.
David Ford said; “Although there have been many significant developments brought about by the Prison Reform Programme, the conclusions of the Inspection Team show the scale of the challenge. Maghaberry is a very complex prison.
“However, in the six months since the inspection, the Prison Service has improved the immediate performance of Maghaberry, as well as putting in place a longer term plan to ensure the prison is delivering better outcomes for prisoners.
“The appointment of Phil Wragg as Governor, and the refreshed experienced senior leadership team put in place at the Prison has already led to improvements in a number of areas, and this will continue.”
Commenting on the Report, Prison Service Director General Sue McAllister said; “This is a disappointing report. The snapshot taken in May demonstrated that Maghaberry had been greatly affected by staff absence which had a serious impact on the regime and outcomes for prisoners. That has been addressed through robust management of attendance while supporting staff, recruitment of new officers and through redeployment from the other prisons. Since May, sickness levels have fallen sharply which means more officers on the landings and a more progressive and settled regime.
“The report also made a recommendation regarding a fire at Erne House in April and an independent investigation into that incident is under way. The inspectors also highlighted the management of separated prisoners within our high security area. In all prisons these areas require an increased level of focus and resource, however we do accept that a way must be found to lessen the impact of that on the rest of the prisoner population, and work is already underway to address this.
“The Inspectors also raised concerns regarding healthcare provision in the Prison which is the responsibility of the South Eastern Trust. Maghaberry will work closely with the Trust to support their work to address the issues highlighted in the Report.
“The misuse of drugs is a societal problem inherited by, and concentrated within, the whole criminal system, not just in prisons. The increased number of drug finds in Maghaberry is a direct result of more intelligence led searches carried out.
“We have also published the actions that will address all the recommendations from the report. This is a roadmap to recovery. I am confident that when the Inspectors return in January they will see significant improvement and a prison delivering for people in custody and playing its part in building a safer community.”
The inspection was carried out by the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland; Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons; the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority; and the Education and Training Inspectorate. The report is available at :https://www.dojni.gov.uk/publications/criminal-justice-inspection-report-unannounced-inspection-maghaberry-prison-11-22-may
The NI Prison Service Action Plan in response to the report is available athttps://www.dojni.gov.uk/publications/maghaberry-prison-action-plan-november-2015