Improvements welcomed but still room for further progress at Magilligan Prison
Inspectors who have examined conditions and outcomes at Magilligan Prison have issued their latest report on the facility.
The report, published today (13 September) by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), has recognised improvements which have occurred since their last announced inspection.
“In the four years since Inspectors conducted their last scheduled inspection, a number of significant improvements have occurred both in terms of the general regime provided for prisoners and also in terms of upgrading the facilities,” said Dr Michael Maguire, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland and Nigel Newcomen, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons in England and Wales.
“Two new residential units and a health care building have been opened and safety at Magilligan has improved with few reported incidents of violence. We also found that care for those at risk of self harm was good and security was more proportionate,” said Dr Michael Maguire.
The Inspectors also welcomed the satisfactory quality of education, skills and work opportunities available for prisoners and the quality of the teaching, training and learning provided at the prison.
“Progress has also been identified in relation to the internationally recognised ‘healthy prison’ standards which examine the areas of safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement,” said Mr Newcomen.
“Inspectors can report that outcomes for prisoners at Magilligan Prison were found to be ‘reasonably good’ in each of the four categories. This represents an improvement in performance since 2004 and again since 2006, when Inspectors carried out an unannounced inspection of the prison,” said the Deputy Chief Inspector with HMIP.
Dr Maguire said: “Inspectors are supportive of the changes which have been introduced at Magilligan Prison to date. This progress is welcome and Inspectors would pay tribute to the prison governor for his evident determination to deliver change.”
The report has also identified a number of barriers to further progress and development at Magilligan Prison which include poor industrial relations.
“At the time this inspection was carried out in late March and early April, industrial action by the Northern Ireland Prison Officers’ Association (POA), which was seriously limiting both prisoners’ time out of cell and access to purposeful activity, was ongoing,” said Dr Maguire.
Unlock times were found to have slipped by one hour at each session which meant prisoners spent three hours more than usual locked up within their cells.
“The inspection team also found that the restrictive officer staffing agreements in place at the prison meant that while there were a potential 158 education places listed, only 119 could be used,” added Dr Maguire.
The overall physical environment at Magilligan Prison – including the continued use of the original house blocks which are difficult to supervise and inhibit good contact between staff and prisoners – has also been identified as a barrier to further progress.
Inspectors found some of the accommodation to be of a good standard, but despite improvements, the original house blocks are unfit for purpose, with an unsatisfactory night sanitation system.
The wide range of accommodation spread out over a large, badly planned site meant that it was difficult to get around, especially in bad weather, which could lead to the cancellation of work and classes.
In conclusion Dr Maguire and Mr Newcomen said: “This inspection has shown how important the contribution made by management can be in delivering change and we commend the Northern Ireland Prison Service for the work that has been carried out at Magilligan Prison.
“We hope that solid support will be forthcoming from Northern Ireland Prison Service Headquarters to assist in sustaining this progress in the future, not least to deal with the seemingly intractable problem of poor industrial relations.”