Positive work of prison reform must be continued - Ford

Date published: 02 March 2016


It is essential that prisons support change in order to provide benefit to victims, to wider society and prisoners, Justice Minister David Ford has said.

Monica McWilliam, Justice Minister David Ford, Director General Sue McAllister

He was speaking at an event to mark the formal end of the prison reform programme which supports the next steps to continue the work to deliver change across the prison system in Northern Ireland.

David Ford said: “Simply keeping prisoners locked up will not achieve change.  There needs to be positive work to provide prisoners with skills, tackle the underlying causes of offending and ensure resettlement support. 

“Over the past four years the Prison Service has worked with colleagues from Health, the Probation Service and the wider Justice Department, partners across the voluntary and community sector, to transform our prisons.  While work remains to be done – and we always knew this would be a long-term process – the prison system today in Northern Ireland is very different to the one I inherited on devolution in April 2010.

“My vision is of a modern, progressive prison system, firmly focused on addressing offending behaviour and playing a vital role in making our community safer. Rehabilitation needs to be at the very heart of everything we do.  That has been – and remains – the direction and driving force behind reform.”   

David Ford added: “As we mark the end of the formal reform programme, it is important to recognise what has been achieved. We now have plans in place for a modern, fit for purpose prison estate, with significant redevelopment agreed for each of the three establishments.

“Engagement with every prisoner is critical in reducing the risk of re-offending. This may be by attending learning and skills, vocational training or internal prison work placements; or taking part in behaviour change programmes or therapeutic interventions. -. 

“Today does not mark the end of the prison reform process. This is merely the end of phase one.  We cannot become complacent, we must forge ahead.  The job over the next ten years and beyond is to embed this change and deliver the end to end transformational change envisaged by the Prison Review Team in 2011. A fit for purpose prison system is in everyone’s interest.  It plays a vital part in reducing reoffending and keeping Northern Ireland safe.” 

The Minister also paid tribute to the Prison Service senior management team for their determination and leadership and the work of the independent members of the Oversight Group who ensured major changes were achieved in the programme.


Notes to editors: 

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