Ash House, Hydebank Wood Women's Prison

Publication: 01/10/13
Fundamental improvement in outcomes for prisoners required at Hydebank Wood Young Offenders' Centre and Ash House women's prison

Inspectors have raised significant concerns around the performance of two of Northern Ireland's prison facilities and their ability to deliver positive outcomes for prisoners within their care.

Inspectors noted that while some positive healthcare initiatives had been introduced they were not yet fully delivering effective outcomes for prisoners.

The critical inspections of Hydebank Wood Young Offenders' Centre (YOC) and Ash House, Northern Ireland's women's prison, were conducted in February 2013  by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority and Education and Training Inspectorate, when both facilities had experienced a period of poor, and at times temporary, leadership.
 
"These two inspection reports contain 156 recommendations for improvement which outline the challenges to be addressed by the new management teams in place at both the YOC and Ash House to deal with current failings," said Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
 
"The achievement of these recommendations would enable both facilities to move forward and deliver more positive outcomes for two of the most vulnerable prisoner groups - women and young men - who are within their care," he said.
 
Outlining some of the key findings of the inspection reports, Mr McGuigan said: "Inspectors were disappointed to find that lessons had not been fully learned from recent deaths in custody at both the YOC and Ash House.   Performance against the four internationally recognised 'healthy prison' tests of safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement, was also concerning.
 
"Performance in relation to safety and respect at the YOC were found to be 'not sufficiently good' while purposeful activity was categorised as 'poor'."
 
The Chief Inspector continued: "Safety was a concern, with many prisoners reporting feeling victimised by other prisoners and staff. There was also little progress in developing a robust approach to violence reduction, and more needed to be done to effectively challenge poor behaviour."
 
Young men were found to be spending too long locked in their cells and activities were often cancelled at short notice.  Concerns existed around the small number of prisoners accessing work and education, and Inspectors also identified that the needs of prisoners with low levels of literacy and numeracy were not being met. 

Inspectors noted that while some positive healthcare initiatives had been introduced they were not yet fully delivering effective outcomes for prisoners.
 
In relation to Ash House, Mr McGuigan said Inspectors found female prisoners had limited access to facilities and services.  They were also subject to an overly restrictive security regime due to sharing the Hydebank Wood site with young male prisoners.
 
"Purposeful activity provision was deemed 'poor' and had deteriorated since Ash House was previously inspected in 2011.  Insufficient activity places were provided, and what was available was poorly used.  Vocational training opportunities were limited and the quality and standard of what was delivered was mixed," said Mr McGuigan.
 
In relation to the remaining three healthy prison tests, performance at Ash House was found to be 'reasonably good' in respect of safety; 'not sufficiently good' in relation to resettlement, while respect was categorised as 'poor.'
 
"The approach in both facilities to addressing substance misuse and tackling what was perceived to be a drugs problem, did not provide a satisfactory level of reassurance," said the Chief Inspector.
 
While Inspectors found some examples of good practice in both facilities, particularly in relation to offender management arrangements, Mr McGuigan stressed the overall level of performance must not be permitted to continue.
 
"The new leadership teams in place at Hydebank Wood YOC and Ash House must work to deliver a fundamental improvement in outcomes for prisoners.  A, radical rethink is also required to the approach to the imprisonment of women in Northern Ireland, in order to improve standards and opportunities.
 
"These inspection reports demonstrate, once again, how imperative it is for focus to be maintained on the wider reform of the Northern Ireland Prison Service and the full implementation of the Prison Review Team recommendations to be achieved," concluded the Chief Inspector.

Recent CJI Related Publications

Hydebank Wood Womens Prison (Ash House)
10 October 2011

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