NI: Ford urges no complacency in prison reform

Justice Minister David Ford
Justice Minister David Ford

Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister David Ford has urged against complacency on prison reform while speaking at an event to mark the formal end of the prison reform programme.

Over the past four years, the Northern Ireland Prison Service has worked with the Probation Service, the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and voluntary and community partners as part of a major prison reform programme.

Mr Ford said: “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.”

He 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.”

Mr Ford 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.

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