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Press Release on behalf of David Ford (24 October 2011)

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Text: David Ford ... Page compiled: Martin Melaugh

Press Release on behalf of David Ford, then Minister for Justice, on the publication of the report of the Prison Review Team, (24 October 2011)


Justice Minister David Ford has described the report by the Prison Review Team as a watershed for the Northern Ireland Prison Service.
~ Monday, 24 October 2011

In a statement to the Assembly today, the Minister accepted the finding of Dame Anne Owers that the next six months will be crucial if the opportunity to fundamentally transform the service is to become a reality.

He said that reforming the Prison Service – routed in security based historical working practices into one with modern, progressive regimes focusing on addressing offender behaviour and making our community safer –will take years to implement but that he is committed to driving through the changes.

David Ford said: “This report both reinforces the need for fundamental reform of the Northern Ireland Prison service and clearly sets out the size of the challenge ahead, not just for my Department but for the Assembly.

“Transforming our prisons was a commitment in the Hillsborough Castle Agreement and if we are to grasp the opportunity that now exists and build a new prison system that helps make our communities safer, then all political parties must embrace the reform agenda.”

The report makes 40 recommendations, some of which fall outside the responsibility of the Prison Service and the Minister will discuss it with both the Justice Committee and Executive colleagues.

David Ford said: “Any thorough and robust review of our prison system was inevitably going to make for uncomfortable reading as many others have in recent years. This report is no exception.

“Whilst expressing their disappointment at progress to date, the Review Team’s report also acknowledges that there is a sense of change and purpose at the top of the Prison Service. I am confident that we will soon see a step-change in the pace of the reform programme.”

Over the past eight months Prison Service management have been putting in place the building blocks to deliver the necessary reforms.

David Ford said: “End to end reform of the Prison Service cannot be achieved overnight and it has taken time to put in place the solid foundations on which to move forward.

“It is therefore vital that we get the process right to ensure change is not only delivered but is embedded across every aspect of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.  

“Since the publication of the interim report, management have made progress in a number of areas. Interviews to appoint an experienced change management team have taken place, preparation for the introduction of a new core day across all establishments is ongoing, work on a new target operating model for the future of the Prison Service has been developed and work continues to define new roles for Prison staff.  

“A process of negotiation has also commenced with both the Prison Officers’ Association and the Prison Governors’ Association.”

“The Director General, Colin McConnell and I recognise that the next six months are crucial for the transformation of the Prison Service and I intend to make a series of announcements on various aspects of the reform programme including publishing details of a staff exit scheme.

The Minister said one of the most disturbing aspects of the report is the differentials in outcomes for various groups of prisoners.

David Ford said: “Both the Director General and I are clear that there are no grounds on which discriminatory or preferential treatment because of religion, ethnicity or nationality will be tolerated.

“I have asked the Director General to ensure Governors take immediate action to address this issue and to report back to me.  I have also agreed with the Director General that in order to ensure transparency measures to deal with this issue should be included in the Department’s Equality Action Plan.”

Director General Colin McConnell reaffirmed management’s commitment to reforming the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

He said: “This report brings into stark focus what needs to be done in the years ahead to reform the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

“The Strategic Efficiency and Effectiveness (SEE) Programme is the vehicle by which the Prison Service will deliver that fundamental end to end change.

“Dame Anne and her team have arrived at a set of recommendations which create a vision for the Northern Ireland Prison Service which I and the management team are committed to delivering.

“However the starting point with any reform programme on this scale must be stripping everything back and getting back to the basics of providing safe, decent and secure custody for those offenders placed by the courts in our care.

“That is what we have been doing since the interim report and I believe we are well positioned to deliver the reforms that the Prison Service needs and that the Assembly and wider society demands.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. Download Dame Anne Ower's review of the Northern Ireland Prison Service
  2. All media enquiries should be directed to NIPS Press Office on 02890 525354. Out of hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.


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