Inspectorate finds juvenile justice centre to be a ‘well-managed’ facility

Northern Ireland’s only custodial facility for children has been praised in an independent inspection report published today, Wednesday 21 May.

Inspectors from Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) found that Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre which opened in January 2007, was a well-managed facility that provided many examples of good practice.
“This inspection found significant progress had been made by the Juvenile Justice Centre (JJC) since Inspectors assessed the old centre accommodated in the former Rathgael training school three years ago,” said Kit Chivers, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
“Inspectors found that Woodlands struck a good balance between caring for difficult children, including some dangerous offenders, and addressing their offending behaviour. 
“The new building was found to incorporate many positive design features that enhanced the management and care of children. Management practices, staff training and qualification levels were also much improved from 2004,” he said.
“Inspectors were satisfied that education and healthcare were given a high priority, with the majority of young people improving their standard of numeracy, literacy, physical and mental health while in the centre,” added Mr Chivers.
However concern was expressed in the report at the high turnover rate of children being placed in Woodlands and the disproportionate amount of young people who came direct to the centre from residential care placements.
“As in previous inspections, Inspectors were uneasy that young people could be placed in custody when the courts, police or social care agencies were unsure how to deal with them. Such placements breach international safeguards and remain more pronounced in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK,” said Mr Chivers.
“We recognise efforts to address this problem are on-going and Inspectors advocate a continued inter-agency approach to dealing with it as it cannot be addressed by the JJC alone.
The Chief Inspector also recommended that Woodlands improve its methods of capturing data in order to analyse the offending profile of children in custody and best meet the needs of the centre’s population.
“Overall, Inspectors found the JJC to compare favourably with other child custody facilities provided in the UK. It will be subject to an ongoing unannounced inspection regime, and another full inspection will be scheduled in three years time,” Mr Chivers concluded.