Review of the Northern Ireland Prison Service-Feb 2011

28 February 2011

Conditions, management and oversight of all prisons - Interim Report

The Hillsborough Agreement of February 2010 led to the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Ministers.  It envisaged that key priorities in the devolved system would be to deal with ‘confidence, avoidable delay, rehabilitation, recidivism and the interests of victims and witnesses’.   

Actions to further those policies included: learning from international best practice; reviewing alternatives to custody; providing diversion from prosecution; developing a comprehensive strategy for the management of offenders; and reviewing how children and young people are dealt with in criminal justice, to ensure compliance with international obligations and best practice.  

In addition, there was to be a review of the ‘conditions of detention, management and oversight of all prisons’ and also ‘consideration of a women’s prison which is fit for purpose and meets international obligations and best practice’1 .   

This review was set up in July 2010 by the new Minister of Justice to carry out the last two of these actions, and began work in August.    The team is chaired by Dame Anne Owers (previously Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales).   

Its other members are Paul Leighton (previously Deputy Chief Constable, Police Service of Northern Ireland), Clodach McGrory (barrister, former Human Rights Commissioner, and a Parole Commissioner), Fergus McNeill (Professor of Criminology and Social Work at Glasgow University), and Phil Wheatley (previously Director General of the National Offender Management Service for England and Wales).    During August and September, we carried out a number of exploratory visits and sent out a call for evidence to groups, agencies and individuals.  

The autumn was spent analysing and following up the evidence received – including meetings with a range of interested parties – and carrying out visits to gather evidence from and outside prisons.   


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