The Ulster Unionist Party’s Justice Spokesperson, Doug Beattie MC MLA, has welcomed the findings of a report from the Criminal Justice Inspection (CJI) NI and Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons in England and Wales, which states that HMP Maghaberry has made significant progress and is no longer unsafe and unstable. Mr Beattie also emphasised the importance of ensuring that prison staff are made to feel valued and listened to, as the people who are at the sharp end of the prison system, doing very difficult jobs with dedication and professionalism.
Doug Beattie MLA said:
“I am encouraged by the new Criminal Justice Inspection report on HMP Maghaberry. I would echo the report where it says that the leadership of the Prison has been excellent and that staff are professional, motivated and engaging in a positive manner. I would go further in saying that the staff are the absolute backbone of the prison and as such deserve high praise for what they have achieved with reduced numbers and serious concerns about working practices and pay.
“However it must be noted that there is a lot of room for improvement.
“Of the four key ‘Healthy Prison’ test assessment outcomes only one is classed as ‘good’, another ‘reasonably good’ and the remaining two as ‘not sufficiently good’. In real language ‘not sufficiently good’ means ‘there is evidence that outcomes for prisoners are being adversely affected in many areas or particularly in those areas of greatest importance to the well-being of prisoners. Problems/concerns, if left unattended, are likely to become areas of serious concern’.
“This report is clearly moving in the right direction. It is important that the Department for Justice continues to support and resource the Northern Ireland Prison Service - its members and its key staff - so that this improvement can continue. It is important that the staff feel valued and that the rights terms of service are in place with a pay deal that matches the difficult task we ask them to do on our behalf and to keep society safe.
“If, however, they decide that this just gets us out of negative headlines and we can take the foot of the accelerator then the prison and the prison service will quickly lose the momentum that has been demonstrated in this report and the excellent leadership at HMP Maghaberry and the dedication of the staff will be undermined.”