Public protection enhanced by hostels contribution

A new report by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland into the management and working practices of hostels that accommodate offenders in Northern Ireland has confirmed the facilities are making a significant contribution towards current public protection arrangements.

These hostels, which are officially known as approved premises, were traditionally used to accommodate homeless offenders.
“Over the years their role has shifted and Northern Ireland’s six approved premises, each of which are operated by organisations in the voluntary and community sector, are now deeply involved in the supervision and monitoring of offenders,” said Kit Chivers, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice.
“This inspection report has confirmed that while these facilities cannot and should not replicate prison within the community, they play a valuable and important role in assisting in the assessment and management of the risks posed by offenders who the courts and other agencies have decided should be released from prison,” said Mr Chivers.
The report notes that risk management is taken extremely seriously by each of the approved premises and that Inspectors saw some good practice in managing difficult people - some of whom could pose a risk to the public.
In an effort to further strengthen the existing system, the Inspectorate has urged each of the approved premises to develop a statement of purpose in discussion with the Probation Board for Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Prison Service and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive who commission their services.
“The introduction of statements of purpose would help clarify differences between approved premises such as management arrangements, capacity and access criteria, accreditation status and the level of funding approved premises receive.
The Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice also recommended that discussions were required in relation to the future shape of the approved premises estate.
“At present, the geographical spread of approved premises in Northern Ireland is uneven. This is an issue that both criminal justice agencies and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive have already recognised.”
In conclusion Mr Chivers said: “CJI will be initiating a programme of small-scale regular inspections of approved premises and look forward to following this work up with a full inspection in three years time which will revisit the key theme of risk management and the relationship approved premises have with the local community.”