Prison system must be adequately resourced – Beattie

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Prison system must be adequately resourced – Beattie

Ulster Unionist Party Leader Doug Beattie MC MLA has called for the local Prison Service to be adequately resourced.

Speaking after a visit to Hydebank Wood College and Women’s Prison, Doug Beattie said:

“It is fair to say that I have previously raised many concerns about the Northern Ireland Prison Service. These include pay and working conditions, welfare support, prisoner assaults, deaths in custody, staffing levels and prison estate resilience. Yet it is also worth highlighting some of the aspects of our prisons that are not just working but working well.

“Recently I visited the Hydebank Wood College and Women’s Prison. During my walk about the facility I spent a large proportion of my time in the learning and skills centre which is run by the Belfast Met. It was genuinely uplifting to see what was being done and how the young inmates – both male and female students - were striving to find a direction and to upskill ready for release back into the community.

“During the visit I met Laura – not her real name – who I had first met four years previously in Hydebank College. Back then she clearly had mental health issues. A  genuine sense of sadness and a lack of purpose surrounded her, and she was seriously self-harming. Her arms bore the scars of numerous self-inflicted slices which were shocking to see. Yet now she is engaged within the prison learning the hospitality trade, running the kitchen and producing food and menus for both students and staff. She has become an articulate young woman with a confidence that has gathered strength due to her upskilling which has added purpose.

“Laura is one of many success stories yet many problems remain. The number of women in prison has increased. Add to this the age of some of the women incarcerated, the mental health issues right across the prison and you can see that there are serious issues that the Department of Justice must address in the coming months.  This is on top of the many other issues highlighted previously. However, the Minister cannot make tangible changes until her department is resourced correctly and that means a workable multi-year budget.

“There are many financial pressures to be dealt with by the Executive once we get it up and running, and the Northern Ireland Prison Service must not be forgotten as we focus on the difficulties the Police Service tackle.  What was clear to me during the visit was that Hydebank Wood College has tapped into a system of rehabilitation, training, upskilling and engagement that could be a model for other prisons if resource was available.”