Inspection of Magilligan Prison shows improvements but continuing concerns

A report of an unannounced follow-up inspection of Magilligan Prison carried out by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland has found that poor accommodation and the limited role of residential staff are preventing the prison from performing as well as it could.

The report has recommended that the existing H-blocks are demolished and are replaced by modern, purpose-built units.
“This recommendation was made at the time of the last inspection in 2004, but it still has not happened and it needs to,” said Anne Owers, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons and Kit Chivers, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
“The Magilligan site, with its collection of Nissen huts and random, often unsuitable buildings needs to be redeveloped if the prison is to remain there,” said the Chief Inspectors, who found that some units at Magilligan were unsafe and unsanitary.
The follow-up inspection report recognised that while good work was taking place in specialist units, elsewhere within the prison there was virtually no personal officer work taking place and little prisoner confidence in the complaints system.
“Inspectors found relationships were essentially reactive and fewer prisoners than in 2004 reported there was a member of staff they could turn to if they had a problem,” said the Chief Inspectors.
It was also of concern that more prisoners than in 2004 reported feeling unsafe and that included two thirds of vulnerable prisoners. In general, Inspectors found that bullying was not well-identified or dealt with.
As a result of a previous inspection report recommendation, the Northern Ireland Prison Service had begun to monitor outcomes for prisoners by religion as well as ethnicity in certain areas.
“While this step is to be welcomed, the findings showed different outcomes for prisoners in some key areas,” stated Mr. Chivers. He acknowledged, however, that the inspection represented a snapshot and that the Prison Service needed to collate information over time.
“It is important for the Northern Ireland Prison Service to ensure that all areas of prison life are monitored, to carry out research to establish the reasons for any differential outcomes and perceptions, and to support managers and staff to take any appropriate or necessary action,” he stated.
Despite these findings, the report showed work in relation to the resettlement of prisoners continued to be strong. Most prisoners had resettlement plans and family liaison provisions were good.
“Inspectors found many local agencies were involved in service provision, and there was some extremely supportive work in relation to substance use,” added the Chief Inspectors.
Overall, the inspection report found Magilligan Prison was making progress after a difficult period against the backdrop of inadequate, unsuitable facilities.
“Changing the built environment is key to unlocking the potential of the prison and its staff. The task for prison managers and for the Northern Ireland Prison Service is to ensure that the whole prison is directed towards its training and resettlement role,” concluded Mr. Chivers.