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Root and Branch reorganization of prison system required – Martina Anderson MLA

30 June, 2009 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Responding to the threat of strike action by the Prison Officers Association, Sinn Féin Human Rights Spokesperson, Martina Anderson said:

“It is clear that a root and branch reorganization of the Prison Service in the North is required. It is also clear that senior members of the Prison Officers Association and prison officers themselves are living in denial if they believe that the recommended reforms of the system are not essential. This institutional opposition to change can not be allowed to prevail.

“It is important that we remember the failings in the system highlighted in the Ombudsman’s and the Human Rights Commissions reports of 2004 and 2005 following the death in Maghaberry of Colin Bell. Among other serious breaches of discipline, Prison Wardens were found to be sleeping on duty and repeated attempts by Colin Bell to take his own life were not observed despite the fact that the CCTV in the cell was supposed to be constantly monitored.

“The record of alcohol abuse, brutality of prisoners, sectarian influences in the prison regime and a mentality prevalent in the prison service that prisoners should be treated as the ‘enemy’ must be confronted and eradicated.

“These attitudes and the circumstances surrounding a number of deaths in custody in recent years demonstrate the need for root and branch changes in the way prisons here are run. ENDS

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