Ulster Unionist Justice spokesperson Tom Elliott has voiced his concerns regarding comments made by Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson and more worryingly, by Sue McAllister, the new Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service at a recent meeting of the Assembly Justice Committee.
Mr Elliott said:
”I was rather concerned at the tone of some of the comments made by Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson and more worryingly, by Sue McAllister, the new Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, which I believe came close to a public admission of a lack of confidence in existing Prison Officers.
Following a discussion regarding new recruits and the culture that they are coming into, I questioned the new DG about what I saw as an inference that current staff are not carrying out the role properly.
Whilst this was rejected, I must say I was concerned at the lack of respect and appreciation shown to serving Prison Officers and the job that they did and are still doing.
The general public will see little to criticise in a Prison Service ‘focused on security’ and will share my concerns that a two tier system of officers is being created with regard to new recruits and existing officers. What the public want to see is a prison system that ensures offenders are locked up and that the public are safe for the full duration of their sentences. Addressing re-offending by prisoners in a ‘rehabilitation focused service’ is obviously an important issue, but the reality is that there is an element of the prison population for whom that is of no interest and prison is simply an occupational hazard. All the hand-wringing in the world will not address that.
I trust that the new Director General in her eagerness to ‘address … offending behaviour more effectively’ will not lose sight of the debt we owe our Prison Officers for the job they do in protecting society from those who attack our elderly and burgle our homes.”