A review into the operation of Care and Supervision Units in the Northern Ireland Prison Service

Publication: 28/09/23
Care and Supervision Units in the NIPS Follow-Up Review
Care and Supervision Units Follow-Up Review

A Follow-Up Review assessing the implementation of recommendations made in an in-depth report on Care and Supervision Units (CSUs) has recognised the significant progress made by the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS).



Praise for collaborative efforts

The review of progress made in the operation of the CSUs found that actions undertaken in the last 18 months by the NIPS in partnership with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust ,the Belfast Metropolitan College and North West Regional College were impressive.  This collaborative effort resulted in improvements in governance and oversight arrangements, leading to better access to purposeful activity for men and women held in the CSUs.

Commitment to implementation

The challenging findings of the CSU Review, published in February 2022, prompted substantial action in partnership with health care and education and training providers to implement the review recommendations.

What positive outcomes were found?

Inspectors found that three strategic and eight operational recommendations had either been fully or partially achieved when they revisited the CSUs in early 2023.  While three operational recommendations were assessed as not achieved, evidence showed ongoing work to progress one of the outstanding recommendations.

Guidelines Developed for CSU Operations

One significant achievement was the development and publication by the NIPS of a framework for the operation of CSUs, reflecting minimum standards for the treatment of individuals in segregation.  This framework includes guidance on the interpretation of meaningful human contact, ensuring transparency and consistent governance arrangements vital for discharging human rights obligations.

Innovative IT solution

An innovative IT solution was implemented to monitor time out-of-cell, prisoner engagement and purposeful activity.  This system can prompt action to safeguard prisoners against being held in conditions that amount to solitary confinement. Inspectors encouraged the NIPS to maximise the value of this IT investment by using collected data and information to improve service delivery and the effective oversight of the CSUs.

Impact of Body Scanners

The introduction of X-ray body scanners to aid the detection of internally concealed prohibited and unauthorised articles in March 2023, previously recommended in the 2019 CJI Safety of Prisoners Inspection, led to an increase in the number of prisoners being placed in the CSUs. This illustrated the complexity of providing services to CSU prisoners, especially those attempting to carry drugs and other banned items into prison.

Improved Facilities for Women

Swift action was taken to ensure women were no longer placed in a CSU facility at Hydebank Wood shared by young men.  Instead, since September 2022, a new dedicated women-only unit was provided, better supporting their needs.

Staff Training and Development

A range of training and development opportunities had been identified and were now being provided for staff working in the CSUs.  Staff embraced these opportunities, particularly around regime monitoring and exit planning to assist prisoners in returning to the general prison population.

Sustaining Commitment to Improvement

CJI Chief Inspector Jacqui Durkin emphasised in the report and accompanying press release that while significant progress had been made, there was a need for sustained commitment from the NIPS and its partners, particularly around information sharing and services provided to support prisoners experiencing personality disorders to drive further improvement.

Complex Needs and Challenges

The review found that 50% of people within the CSUs at the time of fieldwork had complex mental health needs. The number of people with personality disorder in prison is significant with some held in a CSU. These patients present with some of the most challenging and complex behaviours.  It is projected that this number will increase in the coming years and therefore it remains imperative for this group of people to have access to appropriate care pathways and treatment plans.

Future monitoring

In conclusion, Ms Durkin said a further Follow-Up Review was not required and further progress assessments would be included within future prison inspections undertaken as part of the CJI Inspection Programme
The positive progress made in implementing the 2022 CSU report recommendations demonstrates what can be achieved when leaders commit to improving services and achieving better outcomes for vulnerable populations.