Urgent review of Prisons needed – Anderson
Sinn Fein MLA and human rights spokesperson Martina Anderson has stated that an urgent and actual review of prisons is needed. Ms Anderson was speaking following a meeting with the Prison Ombudsman today at Stormont.
Speaking following the meeting Ms Anderson said:
“In terms of international human rights standards as applied to advanced democratic states the Prison Service is in serious crisis.
“There has been no modernisation of the prison service in terms of the norms of human rights protections and adequate service provision
“Despite being 10 suicides over eight years, a history of alcoholism within the jails, a severe lack of care and a culture of apathy from staff towards reform there has been no review of accountability mechanisms. Reports into the death of Colin Bell were a remarkable indictment of the lack of care, custom and practice at Maghaberry.
“Further to this we can see cases such as a 15 year old girl, not being held in a Juvenile Secure Unit Woodland but Hydebank who is locked up 23 hours with poor access to services, especially education. I am worried that there is little if any child protection training nor vetting of staff who work with children.
“These failings have been consistently exposed and highlighted by several, knowledgeable agencies including the Coroners service, by Prison Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission, the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, and the Independent Monitoring Board, yet recommendations remain mostly unimplemented, warnings ignored and vulnerable prisoners die as a result.
“The gift of prison reform currently lies with the British Secretary of State. Over the past year it is clearly evident that he has played this role with minimum effect and has done nothing to improve conditions.
“Only through transfer can we bring about accountability with fit for purpose facilities and adequately trained staff with water tight procedures, all of which is desperately needed.
“Following the meeting with the Prison Ombudsman and on the back of successive reports and countless recommendations these reports, I would call for greater statutory powers for the Ombudsman. Clearly there is a need for this and the protection of the vital role of this office.”