Positive family support crucial in prisoner rehabilitation – Director General

Date published: 06 November 2019

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Positive relationships and contact with family can play a crucial role in the rehabilitation process, the Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service has said.

Included in the picture are (from left) Ronnie Armour, Director General NI Prison Service, David Kennedy, Governor Maghaberry Prison and Deirdre Sloan, Barnardos NI and Koulla Yiasouma, NICCYP

Launching the Strengthening Family Relations Strategy, Ronnie Armour said the Prison Service recognised the importance of positive family connections and social support.  He was also speaking at the official opening of The Big Visit area at Maghaberry by Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People.

He said: “We want to actively support and enable family contact where possible and appropriate. The Strategy acknowledges the part that families and wider social networks can play in supporting those in our care to move away from re-offending because we know positive changes can ultimately lead to better lives. We will also focus on children, who are often significantly affected by parental imprisonment.

“The Northern Ireland Prison Service is committed to continuously improving how we work and respond to the needs of people in our care, which is why their views - and those of their families - have been instrumental in shaping this strategy.

“Today’s official opening of the ‘Big Visit’ area and outside space is a tangible example of how we are putting the strategy into practice. I hope the new facility will bring a further sense of normality to family visits and provide an opportunity to create some positive memories together.”

The ‘Big Visit’ area is run in partnership with Barnardos NI as part of ‘Families Matter’ initiative at Maghaberry and was officially opened by Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, who said: “Healthy family relationships are key if children are to get the best possible start in life. It is, therefore, very encouraging that the NI Prison Service is working towards providing an environment that accommodates and encourages stronger relationships between prisoners and their children.

“Children must not be punished as a result of a parent being imprisoned. The new facilities will encourage more meaningful visits and I welcome the wider Strategy that recognises the importance of better family links. Positive and stable family relationships are directly linked to less re-offending, through providing greater support we benefit all of society.”

Ronnie Armour added: “Work will continue in Maghaberry and across the prison estate, driven by the new strategy, to encourage and improve contact between families, support networks, and those in our care.”

Learn more about the Strengthening Family Relations Strategy and the ‘Big Visit’ area at https://youtu.be/OS4LkkxYkRY 

Notes to editors: 

  1. ‘Family’ might be a partner, a parent, a child, a neighbour or friend.  The Strengthening Family Relations Strategy can be read in full here at prisons-ni/publications
  2. Maghaberry Prison is the only Category ‘A’ prison in Northern Ireland and also operates as a remand prison for all adult male prisoners in the country. It accommodates a range of sentenced prisoners such as life sentence, indeterminate and extended custody prisoners, separated prisoners, fine defaulters and civil prisoners.
  3. At 4 November 2019, there were 898 prisoners at Maghaberry Prison.
  4. For all media enquiries, please contact the DOJ Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110 and your call will be returned.

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