The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has agreed
to the following Report:
THE NORTHERN IRELAND PRISON SERVICE
1. We reported on the Prison Service in Northern
Ireland in November 1998.
At that time, the Northern Ireland Prison Service (the Prison
Service) was on the threshold of very substantial changes. Implementation
of the prisoner release provisions of the Belfast Agreement was
expected to lead to the release of the overwhelming majority of
paramilitary prisoners, with the consequent closure of HMP Maze
"by the end of the year 2000".
Implementation of the Prison Service Review was about to start
and was to coincide with a reduction in the size of the Service
consequent on the expected closure of HMP Maze.
2. In that Report, we expressed a number of serious
concerns about the state of the Prison Service. These included
concerns about the implementation of the Prison Service Review,
about morale and about training. As the Government pointed out
in its Response
to our Report, over half the conclusions and recommendations focused
on staff management issues. We therefore took evidence from the
Director General, in October 1999,
to take stock of progress. He described a number of encouraging
developments, including progress on staff reductions,
improved levels of training
and reduced levels of absenteeism.
He also confirmed that HMP Maze was expected to close in July
Our original Report was subsequently debated in Westminster Hall
on 27 January 2000.
3. The Prison Service has been subject to a Quinquennial
Review by the Government. The timing of the Review, which was
announced in December 1999,
reflected the fact that the Prison Service would complete five
years of operation as an Executive Agency on 31 March 2000. It
is government policy that all Executive Agencies should be reviewed
no later that than period. In its Stage One report, the review
team recommended that the Service should remain an Executive Agency.
This recommendation was accepted by Ministers in May 2000.
The Stage Two report, which examined how the effectiveness and
efficiency with which the Prison Service delivers its services
and functions could be further improved in the future, was published
in July 2000.
The report incorporated a new draft Framework Document for the
Prison Service. The final version received Ministerial approval
on 21 December 2000 and was published in February 2001.
4. The Prison Service has also been subject to formal
external assessment of five of its six sites with a view to achieving
recognition as an Investor in People organisation.
Assessments have been successfully completed at these sites and
HMP Maghaberry, the site not yet formally assessed, will undergo
this process in March 2001.
5. In July 2000, we decided to conduct a second,
more extensive, follow up to our original inquiry, encompassing
also evidence from the Prison Officers' Association (Northern
Ireland) and the Prison Governors' Association (Northern Ireland).
In November 2000, we also paid another visit to HMP Maghaberry,
by then the sole remaining high security prison in Northern Ireland
following the closure of HMP Maze in September 2000. We are most
grateful to all the witnesses for their evidence and to the Governor
and staff of HMP Maghaberry for facilitating our visit.
6. We are also grateful to the two Specialist Advisers
to our original inquiry, Professor Anthony Bottoms, Wolfson Professor
of Criminology at the University of Cambridge and Dr Andrew Coyle,
Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies at King's
College, University of London, for their continued involvement
in, and assistance with, our inquiries into the Prison Service
in Northern Ireland.
7. Taken together, the evidence of October 1999,
the Westminster Hall debate of January 2000 and the evidence submitted
by the Prison Service in October 2000 provides a detailed account
of developments over the last two years or so. This material describes
a remarkable transformation of the Prison Service both in size
and in its general character. We are impressed by the care and
thought that has been put into the process of adapting the Prison
Service to its new, more traditional, role and the efficiency
with which the process is being carried out. This is a tribute
to all concerned, both management and staff. The Prison Service
told us that approval in principle has been given for a new medal
to recognise the special pressures on the Northern Ireland Prison
Service over the last 30 years.
We share the delight of the Prison Service that the unique
difficulties faced by prison staff in Northern Ireland are to
receive official recognition and add our own tribute to them for
the way they have carried out their duties, often under immense
8. In this Report, we highlight progress in a number
of key areas of concern to us in the course of our original inquiry,
and also comment on several issues that have either emerged over
the last couple of years, or have acquired greater significance.
2 Fourth Report, Session 1997-98 (HC 716). Back
para 22. Back
First Special Report, Session 1998-99 (HC 299). Back
866-i (1998- 99). Back
866-i, Q 4-5. Back
866-i, Ev. p. 1, Q 25-26. Back
866-i, Ev. p. 1, Q 21-22. Back
866-i, Ev. p. 2, Q 32. Back
Report, 27 January 2000, Vol. 343, Cols. 107-135WH. Back
Report, 8 December 1999, Vol. 340, Col. 535W. Back
Report, 11 May 2000, Vol. 349, Col. 457W. Back
Report, 28 July 2000, Vol. 354, Col. 1005W. Back
Report, 8 February 2000, Vol. 362, Col.679W. As an interim measure,
the text was posted on the Internet in December 2000. See also
Ev. p. 4. Back
p. 2. Back
p. 2. See also Q 84. Back