"Collaboration 'key' to management of life and indeterminate sentenced prisoners" says Chief Inspector
The importance of a collaborative approach from the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) and the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) in the management life and indeterminate sentence prisoners has been highlighted in a follow-up review published today (Tuesday 9 February 2016) by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI).
The review found only one of three strategic recommendations made in July 2012 to improve the management of life and indeterminate sentence prisoners in Northern Ireland had been achieved.
"Imprisonment for life is the ultimate sanction that the State can impose on offenders who commit the most serious criminal offences and represent a significant threat to the public," said Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
"Reducing that risk and dealing with the underlying offending behaviour along with preparing offenders for their eventual release, must be the primary objective of our prison and probation services."
Commenting on the progress made against the inspection recommendations Mr McGuigan said: "We welcome the development and opening of Burren House as a pre-release step down facility in Belfast on the site of the former Prisoner Assessment Unit.
"The facility which is staffed by prison officers and supported by probation officers based at Maghaberry Prison, benefits from strong links to the voluntary and community sector.
"It facilitates a purposeful regime for prisoners usually in the last 15 months of their sentence - to assist in preparing them for resettlement into the community following release. It also allows for assessments to be made to establish if a prisoner is safe to be released and will be able to cope with life outside prison," he said.
Mr McGuigan however said he was disappointed a strategic recommendation to establish a more integrated psychology service had not been achieved, and he urged the NIPS and PBNI to fundamentally review psychological provision and collaborate to ensure services were more closely aligned.
Of the 11 operational recommendations made in the original CJI report, Inspectors found four were achieved and six were partially achieved. One operational recommendation was not achieved.
In conclusion, Mr McGuigan said that while work on implementing and achieving the inspection recommendations was continuing, further effort was required and CJI would continue to monitor progress through other inspection work.
"Reduced funding for probation services means prison staff will need to take on a greater role in managing life and indeterminate sentenced prisoners. To do this they will need to be fully trained to deliver this enhanced role," he said.