Long welcomes next phase of prisons’ recovery plan

Date published: 31 July 2020

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Justice Minister Naomi Long has welcomed a further easing of prison restrictions related to Covid-19, which will allow the recommencement of pre-release testing.

Pre-release testing plays a critical role in the rehabilitation and resettlement of offenders.  Prisons will now begin planning and preparations, with a view to phased pre-release testing recommencing by the end of August.

Naomi Long said: “Throughout this challenging time the right decisions have been taken at the right time to ensure staff and those in our care are kept safe and I want to pay tribute to everyone associated with the Prison Service for all their work throughout the pandemic. 

“It is right they take these next steps, particularly in how we challenge those people in custody to rehabilitate and prepare to return to our community.  Pre-release testing is a vital component of that work and I welcome the decision taken by the Director General and his senior team to reestablish the process with the necessary Covid-19 precautions in place.”

Director General Ronnie Armour said: “Preparing people in our care for release back into society is one of the most important parts of our work.  Pre-release testing allows us, along with our partners, to test individuals in a structured and planned way.  We will also start to prepare for our working units out to be reopened in September.

“We will continue to be cautious in our approach to ensure staff and the people in our care are kept safe. As in all responses to the pandemic, preparations will be predicated against the latest PHA advice for prisons and NI Executive guidance and we will remain vigilant against the risk posed by the virus which could impact on our plans.  However this decision is an important milestone and we will continue to ease restrictions where and whenever possible.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office by emailing Press.Office@justice-ni.x.gsi.gov.uk
  2. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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