Effective, on-going resettlement work delivered through collaboration ‘key’

The Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland has declared the effective delivery of resettlement services to offenders while in prison is key to reducing the risk of reoffending and protecting the community.

Speaking today (Thursday 31 May 2018) following the publication of Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland’s latest report on resettlement, Brendan McGuigan said that while the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) and its partner the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) had much to be proud of, there was still more work to do.
“The successful delivery of resettlement inside prison must be one of the primary goals of the penal system in Northern Ireland.  The work to address the causes of offending behaviour and reduce a prisoner’s risk on release must start from the day someone enters prison and continue until the day they return to the community,” said the Chief Inspector.
“The path to rehabilitation,” he stressed “is not an easy one, particularly for those offenders who have had chaotic lifestyles, are reluctant to address their offending behaviour or who enter prison with a range of unmet mental health, educational, emotional and social needs.”
Mr McGuigan said that in the seven years since CJI’s last resettlement inspection report was published, significant progress had been made following the introduction and use of the Prisoner Development Model to identify and assess individual prisoner’s risks, needs and strengths.
“Inspectors support the collaborative approach of the NIPS and the PBNI to deliver resettlement services in partnership with healthcare providers, addiction services and the voluntary and community sector, as it offers the best prospect of success.
“However, changes in working practices had reduced the levels of joint work being undertaken by prison and probation staff, which may mean that at an operational level, the model isn’t working as effectively as it could,” said Mr McGuigan.
“Inspectors recommend that within the next six months the NIPS and PBNI should carry out a joint study to assess the impact of these changes on how the model is operating and resettlement outcomes for prisoners.  This information should then be used to develop future resettlement work and inform the delivery of the Prisoner Development Model,” said Mr McGuigan.
Inspectors also found that while an effective system was in place to track the processes and activities prisoners undertook, work to evaluate outcomes for prisoners was under-developed.
“We have also recommended that within the next 12 months, the Prison Service, Probation Board and DoJ, as part of its desistance remit, should develop meaningful, outcome-focused performance measures to assess the effectiveness of resettlement provision and long-term outcomes for prisoners.
“This work will help ensure informed choices are made to secure the most beneficial results using the resources that are available,” said the Chief Inspector.
The report also noted that Inspectors were impressed by the attitude, knowledge and commitment shown by many prison and probation officers and voluntary and community service staff.
“We welcome the professionalism, focus and dedication shown to resettlement by prison staff working specifically in this area. However, we would urge the NIPS to address the poor connection some residential staff had to the resettlement work undertaken by colleagues, by embedding it as part of their core job,” said Mr McGuigan.
In conclusion the Chief Inspector said: “Resettlement is area where individual prison inspections have found the NIPS to be performing well. I believe the implementation of the two strategic and seven operational recommendations in this inspection report will help maximise the potential of the NIPS/PBNI partnership to reduce risk and prepare individual prisoners’ for their release.
“This will ensure prison staff get the additional help and support they need to lift resettlement to the next level - and make a real impact on reoffending - something the victims of crime, local communities and taxpayers are entitled to demand.”