Letter from the Prison Officer's Association
(Northern Ireland) to Dr E M Power, Quinquennial Review Team,
Northern Ireland Office
QUINQUENNIAL REVIEW OF THE NORTHERN IRELAND
I write in response to your letters, dated 22
December 1999 and 3 March 2000.
First of all, I would like to apologise for
the delay in replying as I have had to wait on responses from
Branches in Establishments. I will deal with the questions you
asked in the order you requested.
(3i) When the Prison Service became an agency
on 1 April 1995, we were led to believe that it would bring about
a transformation of the Prison Service and we would all feel that
we were part of it. I have to say, in my opinion it has been a
complete disaster up until recently and it is only now that management
is beginning to get to grips with what it should have been doing
for the past five years.
(3ii) I believe that the Prison Service should
continue as an Agency but the practice of allowing Civil Servants
to come and go must cease and they should remain part of the Agency.
After all, Prison staff are the constant core of the Agency whilst
the administration staff come and go creating difficulties for
the core staff who are left. We find ourselves in the position
that administrative staff have no loyalty to the Agency or the
core business as it is only another career step for them.
(3iii) The Prison Service should concentrate
over the next five years on building a Prison Service which all
staff feel that they belong to by giving more training as this
has been lacking over the years. They now have an opportunity,
as a result of the Staff Reduction Programme, to build a Service
which we can all be proud of. External training should be linked
to the job we do, not as it is at the moment. Our education budget
is allocated on a first come basis and some of the courses granted
funding bear no relationship to the job we do.
(3iv) Our Association has always advocated that
the role of the Prison Officer should be expanded into the probation
field and, in fact a pilot scheme was carried out at the YOC some
years ago and it proved a success but it was allowed to lapse.
(3v) The Prison Service can only serve the community
better if we can manage to return offenders to the community more
equipped to deal with the changing work environment. The training
which is being offered to inmates today within our penal system
is outdated and it does not reflect present day work requirements.
(3vi) There is much which the Prison Service
can do to offer better value for money to the taxpayer. This Association
has been at the forefront over recent years in reducing the cost
to the taxpayer of keeping a prisoner in custody, only to watch
the increase in Civil Servant posts and consultants being paid
large amounts of money to advise management as to how they should
manage, when the taxpayer is paying them to manage. Management
is attempting to put out Prison Officer jobs to contractors and
continue to employ Prison Officers as well as the contractors.
Where is the value for money in this type of management? It is
our opinion that we have the necessary expertise within the Prison
Service and we do no require consultants to advise us at colossal
expense to the taxpayer.
We have a recent example where a prior options
study of escorting prisoners to court indicated that this service
should go out to tender. The Association argued that this service
could be done as cheaply with prison staff if it was managed properly.
A study was carried out by an in-house team and we now have this
service up and running and, up until now, it has been a great
success. We also said that the Prison Service should take over
all court productions from the RUC and also that we should man
all courts because we believe prison staff can do it cheaper than
the RUC. I believe that study is now being done.
Another example is the video linking from establishments
to courts which is now up and running. All the research work was
carried out by prison staff, not consultants.
There are many more examples but I feel that
if you could find time a meeting would be very useful at this
I look forward to hearing from you.
15 March 2000