Paramilitary inmates ‘lack appropriate development and resettlement services’

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Paramilitary prisoners in Northern Ireland have not received appropriate development and resettlement services, an inspection said.

Maghaberry Prison governor David Kennedy has said full and productive days were crucial to rehabilitating inmates.

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) published a report on Thursday on resettlement.

It said: “It remained unsatisfactory that the separated prisoners did not receive appropriate prisoner development and resettlement services, although CJI recognised that this matter was unlikely to be fully resolved in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly and justice minister.”

Following protests in 2003, the then government commissioned a review of the conditions in the prison which concluded that separation was necessary to protect paramilitary prisoners from opposing factions, from each other and to protect ordinary prisoners from the paramilitaries.

A special regime was established in Bush and Roe Houses in Maghaberry.

Previous Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland reports recommended that the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) should set specific targets for the delivery of resettlement services to the separated population.

Inspectors had been critical of the demands of the separated units as undermining the work of the whole prison.

It was previously recommended that if it was necessary to continue to manage the units differently from the rest of the prison, then their location, management and resources should be removed to prevent creating a significant adverse impact on the wider prison population.

Prisoners in the separated regime did not in general choose to avail of the process for resettlement or opt for support to reduce their risk of harm, likelihood of offending and prepare them for return to the community, the inspectorate report said.

The Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan, A Fresh Start said the Justice Department should order an independent review of the separated regime.

It also recommended that the DoJ should ensure appropriate learning and training opportunities were provided to the prisoners in the separated regime.

The inspectorate’s report said at the time of writing that work was continuing towards “implementing these (Stormont House) recommendations.”

Inspectors understood that the NIPS had plans to engage with key stakeholders for a consultation on constructive and purposeful activity in the separated prison accommodation.

The report said: “Although still at an early stage and subject to funding being confirmed, the expected outcome would be for the development and delivery of a new model of constructive and purposeful activity for separated prisoners focused upon positive educational and wellbeing outcomes.”

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