Report of an Independent Review of Progress (IRP) at Magilligan Prison

Publication: 08/02/24
Cover of Independent Review of Progress at Magilligan Prison Report
Report of an Independent Review of Progress at Magilligan Prison

What is an Independent Review of Progress (IRP)?

Independent Review of Progress (IRPs) play a pivotal role in assessing progress prisons have made against concerns identified in inspection reports. IRP aims to support continuous improvement and identify any emerging difficulties at an early stage that could impact on outcomes for prisoners. 

The first IRPs were carried out by Inspectors at Maghaberry Prison and Magilligan Prison, shedding light on both progress and persisting concerns.

Who carried out the Inspection?

A few changes in the way findings are reported:

Since Magilligan Prison was inspected in 2021, there has been a change to how inspection findings were reported.  Inspections now report up to 15 priority and key concerns rather than make 30-35 recommendations.  This change aimed to encourage leaders to focus on improvement and better outcomes for prisoners.

What did Inspectors look at during this IRP?

The Inspection Team selected 14 of the 30 recommendations, including the two key concerns to follow up during the IRP.

The IRP included two days on site at Magilligan Prison in late October/early November 2023 and spoke to leaders, managers, staff, service providers and prisoners. 

We also spoke to Independent Monitoring Board members and a staff association.  The prison, the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) and Belfast Metropolitan College/West Regional College had provided data and documentation setting out their assessment of the progress they had made and this was examined and tested.  

What is Magilligan Prison like now?

Progress at Magilligan Prison was mixed.  The Inspection team found there had been either good or reasonable progress made against half of the recommendations being followed up and insufficient progress or no meaningful progress in the remaining seven areas.  This was a concern.

Progress in addressing the key concern related to illicit substances had been too slow and, while there had been improvements in the complaints process, formal consultation with prisoners remained poor and little had been done to address poor perceptions of staff victimisation which was a recommendation we first made in 2017. 

Effective systems were now in place to improve cleanliness and the Prisoner Development Unit was operating better than during our last visit.  Progress had been made against recommendations related to the delivery of education provision but much more needed to be done.

Magilligan has the potential to be a model establishment but in our view, the Governor and leaders in the Northern Ireland Prison Service needed to address recommendations with greater vigour and be more robust in their assessment of how outcomes for prisoners were being improved.


We recognise the challenges faced by leaders in the Northern Ireland Prison Service and its service partners, particularly with the current prison population numbers and resource challenges to drive improvement and it was evident that leaders, managers and staff had taken some steps to respond to the respective inspection findings.

However, ambition and action are needed to support prisoners leaving custody healthier, more employable, making better choices and less likely to return to prison.
Read IRP at Maghaberry Prison
Read the Press Release