Report on an announced inspection of Maghaberry Prison 19 - 23 March 2012

Publication: 17/12/12
Maghaberry Prison
Maghaberry Prison improving but still a long way to go say Inspectors

A new inspection report published today (17 December 2012) on Maghaberry Prison has found that standards have improved in the three years since the facility was last inspected.

The prison was inspected in March 2012 by a multi-disciplinary team [of Inspectors] from Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority and the Education and Training Inspectorate.
"Maghaberry Prison was assessed against the internationally recognised 'healthy prison' standards which examine the areas of safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement," explained Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
"Inspectors found there had been some positive developments since 2009 in relation to the critical area of safety.
"Arrangements to support vulnerable prisoners were improving and the multi-disciplinary team in the Donard Day Centre provided excellent care for some very vulnerable individuals.  Despite these developments, some gaps still existed," he said.
Mr McGuigan continued: "We welcome the introduction of mandatory drug testing but had concerns around the diversion of prescription medication and the poor drug treatment processes at Maghaberry."
Inspectors also noted that there was no effective monitoring of violent incidents to identify when or where they were likely to occur or how they could be prevented.
"The inspection team found that despite high staffing levels, association and exercise areas were not adequately supervised and concerns remain that Maghaberry does not provide a sufficiently safe environment for prisoners held there," said the Chief Inspector.
Addressing the report's findings in relation to purposeful activity, Nick Hardwick, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons in England and Wales called for a more strategic approach to learning and skills to be adopted within Maghaberry Prison.
"There has been positive investment in the prison's new Learning and Skills Centre but the provision available at the time of the inspection, was failing to meet the needs of the prison population," he said.
Mr Hardwick indicated there were insufficient activities to occupy prisoners with around half of the prison population unemployed.  This meant too many prisoners were being locked behind their doors for up to 20 hours per day.
The report states that in relation to its resettlement activity, outcomes for prisoners were assessed as being 'reasonably good.'
The Chief Inspectors' indicated that resettlement was the most positive aspect of Maghaberry Prison, with good attempts made to address the behaviour of both short and long-term prisoners despite high numbers and the complex range of prisoners held there.
Public protection arrangements were functioning better than in 2009 and although not all needs were met, the provision of offending behaviour programmes had improved since co-ordination was taken over by the Offender Management Unit.
Inspectors however found that no progress had been made in relation to the area of respect at Maghaberry with outcomes for prisoners remaining the same as before.
"Maghaberry's own statistics have confirmed that in terms of equality there were still unequal outcomes for Catholic prisoners in several important areas.  Yet this sensitive issue was not being addressed and we have recommended the Northern Ireland Prison Service to take action to deliver equality of outcomes for all prisoners," said Mr McGuigan.
Inspectors also identified issues around the structure of the health services provided within the prison.
This report notes that while there have been some improvements, organisational and staffing problems were having an adverse impact on clinical outcomes.  Health care partnership arrangements were also not working effectively as they should.
In conclusion Mr McGuigan said: "This inspection found signs of real improvement which are welcome, but the prison still has a long way to go.  It does not yet provide a sufficient level of safety and respectful treatment with too many prisoners having insufficient purposeful activity during their time there.
"The progress made to date needs to be increased and Inspectors would encourage the Northern Ireland Prison Service to embed these improvements in the culture and processes at Maghaberry Prison so that the progress that has been made is built on further," said the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.