Fundamental reform of Prison Service undeniable – Ford

Justice Minister David Ford has said that the case for fundamental reforms within our Prison Service is undeniable.

He was speaking today following the publication of Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland’s (CJINI) report on the corporate governance arrangements within the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS).

The report by Dr Michael Maguire sets out the historical context in which NIPS has operated and developed but highlights the need for transformation of the way in which the Prison Service works.

David Ford said: “Our prison system developed in response to the issues of another day, and while society has changed, and society’s expectations of the Prison Service have changed, the Service itself has not kept pace with those changes.

This important report highlights fundamental problems within the Prison Service that go beyond the operational issues which the Service and I have been wrestling with in recent months.

“The Service cannot remain in its current form. Fundamental change is essential, otherwise the failures of recent months will be repeated.”

The Minister said that Dr Maguire’s Report will feed into the review of prisons’ being undertaken by Dame Anne Owers.

He said: “The challenge for me as Minister, for leaders within the Prison Service and across the wider political spectrum, is to deliver the fundamental reforms that our Prison Service needs, whether they be structural, operational or cultural.

“That is why I am committed to the twin-tracked reform programme, which is already underway, comprising the comprehensive Review of Prisons being led by Anne Owers and the Strategic Efficiency and Effectiveness Programme being taken forward within the Prison Service.

“If in the future we are to have a Prison Service in which I as Minister, and the wider community, can all have confidence, we must commit ourselves to fundamentally reforming the Service and we must see it through to completion.”

The Minister also welcomed an agreement reached last week between Prison Service management and the Prison Officers Association (POA) on closer working relationships.

He said: “The Prison Service will face unprecedented challenges over the next few years and in this context, it is essential that both management and the POA work together so that the necessary changes can be made within NIPS. This agreement demonstrates that the Prison Service as an organisation is ready for that challenge.”

Notes to editors:

1. The inspection of the Corporate Governance arrangements of the NI Prison Service is one of a series of planned inspections carried out by the Inspectorate.

2. The inspection was carried out during the first half of 2010.

3. The report is available on the CJINI website: http://www.cjini.org and on the NIPS website: http://www.niprisonservice.gov.uk

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