A newly published report has highlighted the positive work around prisoner rehabilitation and has described progress since Magilligan Prison was last inspected as ‘immensely encouraging’.
The inspection, which was carried out by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons in England and Wales (HMIP) with support from colleagues from the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) and the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI), found that improvements had been made in key areas.
“When Inspectors visited Magilligan Prison in 2014, we were concerned that nearly half of the prison population was not participating in education, vocational training or work activities. However when we visited the prison in June this year, we found excellent progress had been made in this area,” said Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland and Peter Clarke, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons in England and Wales.
“Time out of cell was much improved and learning, skills and work provision had moved forward significantly with about three quarters of the men held there engaged in a range of purposeful activity. There was also a clear aspiration to improve this level further,” they said.
The chief inspectors also praised the leadership within the prison and the positive culture that existed between staff and prisoners. The inspection welcomed too innovative work to improve provision for disabled and older prisoners and improvements in relation to health care.
However, they were concerned by some findings and called for further improvements to address ongoing issues.
“Poorer outcomes for Catholic prisoners remain in a number of key areas and it is our view that their needs to be a greater focus on the underlying reasons for these differences. It is our view the Northern Ireland Prison Service needs expert independent support to achieve this,” said Mr McGuigan and Mr Clarke.
They also remained concerned that an integrated drugs and alcohol strategy still did not exist aimed at reducing supply and addressing the needs of prisoners with substance or addiction problems.
“Reducing the supply and use of illicit and illegal drugs is a major challenge which requires a strategic approach. We recommend there should be a prison-wide drug and alcohol strategy with an associated action plan to address both supply reduction and support issues.”
In conclusion the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice said the inspection recognised the progress made at Magilligan but stressed the continued need for management within the prison to maintain a focus on delivering positive outcomes for prisoners.
“This report shows the change strong, committed leadership and a clear vision can bring within a prison environment and we would urge the Northern Ireland Prison Service to continue to build on this strong foundation to continue to deliver a positive rehabilitative environment for prisoners. Significant challenges remain therefore there is no room for complacency and the current focus on improvement at Magilligan must not be allowed to slip.
“The challenge for the future is to maintain this positive direction of travel and we would urge senior leaders within the Prison Service to maintain the focus on improvement at Magilligan and to seek to transfer the positive practice in place in Magilligan and replicate this approach within the other prisons within Northern Ireland,” Mr McGuigan concluded.