The Prison Officer Association (POA) unhappy at the disciplining of a fellow officer following the death of Colin Bell, a vulnerable prisoner who hung himself in prison while he was supposed to be on special protection measures, are now working to rule. The report into Colin Bell’s death conducted by the Prison Ombudsman for Northern Ireland presented highly critical findings of the prison service and some of its staff. http://www.niprisonerombudsman.gov.uk/downloads/ColinBellReport.pdf
A follow-up inspection conducted by the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJNI) – noted that even in the wake of the inquiry into Colin Bell’s death – “the pace of change within the NIPS had not been as swift as Inspectors would have wished to see.” http://www.cjini.org/NewsAndEvents/Press-Releases/2009/October—December/Inspectors-find-Prison-Service-must-continue-to-fo.aspx
The POA have called for three senior managers to resign, arguing that the disciplined officers have not been afforded due process in the Bell investigation and all officers are now working to “their terms and conditions” – i.e. working to rule. This follows the recent departure of Steve Rodford, the Governor of Maghaberry after just five months – following a ‘dissident threat’.
The POA are now calling for the incoming justice minister to implement more change ‘at the top of the prison service’ . More would argue that change within the Prison Service needs occur at all levels on a scale similar to the ‘Pattenisation’ of the police service in Northern Ireland.