Inspection reveals strategy has focused efforts of Agencies involved in Resettlement of Prisoners

A report by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) on the Northern Ireland Resettlement Strategy has shown good work is being undertaken by the Northern Ireland Prison Service, the Probation Board for Northern Ireland and other agencies.

The strategy -- which aims to prepare prisoners for settling back into the community on release from prison -- assists in dealing with matters such as accommodation, training, employment and benefits in an effort to reduce their likelihood of re-offending.
“CJI found progress had been made since 2004 when the strategy was launched and that the criminal justice agencies and the statutory and voluntary agencies involved it its delivery were more co-ordinated and focused in their efforts as a result,” said Kit Chivers, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice Inspection.
“Inspectors found the resettlement work being undertaken in Northern Ireland compared favourably with work ongoing in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland.
“All the people involved in this area of work within the Northern Ireland Prison Service are clearly committed to the concept of resettlement, yet their work is regularly undermined by other priorities such as the re-deployment of staff to other duties and the transfer of prisoners between one facility and another,” he continued.
“In Northern Ireland, there is still for understandable reasons, a focus on security at the expense of the rehabilitation and resettlement of prisoners.
“The Prison Service recognises that a better balance needs to be struck and they have implemented a strategy to address these competing priorities which we shall look at when we review progress on the resettlement strategy in three years time,“ said the Chief Inspector.
The report has also highlighted the need for the Prison Service to share responsibility for the delivery of resettlement with other agencies.
“The input of the Probation Board in delivering the resettlement strategy is crucial to its success. The voluntary and community sector also makes a significant contribution not just by delivering services, but by providing links between the Prison Service and the wider community.
“However, other agencies -- not just those within the criminal justice sector -- need to play their part,” he said, adding that better engagement with other agencies needed to be at the core of the next phase of the resettlement strategy.
In conclusion, Mr Chivers stressed that he hoped the report and the 19 recommendations made as a result of CJI’s inspection would assist in progressing the resettlement strategy further.