Prisoner Escort and Court Custody Service praised for improving experience of prisoners
Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) has praised the Northern Ireland Prison Service Prisoner Escort and Court Custody Service for implementing inspection recommendations aimed at improving prisoner escort and court custody arrangements in Northern Ireland.
"In 2010 CJI made 17 recommendations for improvement and when Inspectors returned in 2013, they found 13 had been achieved with work undertaken in relation to the remaining four recommendations," said Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
"I would commend the Prisoner Escort and Court Custody Service for the progress that has been made which has had the dual benefits of transforming the experience of prisoners and improving cost effectiveness.
"Inspectors welcome the use of dynamic risk assessment by the Prisoner Escort and Court Custody Service and the practice of no longer routinely handcuffing prisoners in secure cellular vehicles.
"We applaud the introduction of this change in custom and practice and the role played by the Prisoner Escort and Court Custody Service management and the trade unions in turning it into a reality," said the Chief Inspector.
Mr McGuigan said concerns raised four years ago that the high cost of sickness absence could counteract cost savings identified in the original business proposal had been addressed.
"Sickness absence within the Prisoner Escort and Court Custody Service has been cut by 1,279 days generating a £200,000 saving which, when combined with a 70% drop in absence as a result of injuries at work, has substantially reduced the risk of the projected savings being eliminated.
"The use of Prisoner Escort and Court Custody Service staff rather than police officers to escort prisoners from Musgrave police holding centre to Laganside Court complex has also created further cost savings for the Police Service at no additional expense," he said.
Mr McGuigan said Inspectors praised the organisation for the positive steps it has taken to reduce instances where male and female prisoners are transported together and carry out consultation with both prison management and prisoners.
"The progress noted in this review is commendable as previous inspection reports across a range of Prison Service activities have not met with anywhere near this amount of success. These developments have been made possible by clearly defined objectives, determined leadership and enthusiastic teamwork," said the Chief Inspector.
"This level of achievement should not be underestimated and maintaining these improvements will be a challenge to the service, but also a testimony to the changes and improvements that may be brought about through perseverance.
"We acknowledge the role played by the Prison Service Prisoner Escort and Court Custody Service management and the trade unions and suggest that these achievements are a beacon for others to follow in transforming service delivery within the Northern Ireland Prison Service," concluded Mr McGuigan.