Official Report: Minutes of Evidence

Committee for Justice , meeting on Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:

Mr A Ross (Chairperson)
Mr Raymond McCartney (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Stewart Dickson
Mr S Douglas
Mr Tom Elliott
Mr Paul Frew
Mr C Hazzard
Mr Seán Lynch
Mr Patsy McGlone
Mr A Maginness
Mr Edwin Poots


Mr Mark Adam, Northern Ireland Prison Service
Mr Paul Cawkwell, Northern Ireland Prison Service
Mrs Sue McAllister, Northern Ireland Prison Service
Mr Max Murray, Northern Ireland Prison Service

Prison Reform Programme and Northern Ireland Prison Estate Strategy: Northern Ireland Prison Service

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): Good afternoon, everyone. I welcome Sue McAllister, the director general; Mark Adam, director of HR and corporate services; Paul Cawkwell, director of offender policy and operations; and Max Murray, director of estates in the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS). I advise you that Hansard is recording this and that it will be on the website in due course. Whenever you are ready, please brief the Committee, and we will open it up to questions after that.

Mrs Sue McAllister (Northern Ireland Prison Service): Thank you for your welcome, Mr Chairman. We are grateful for the opportunity to brief you today. Members had requested an update on the reform programme and, in particular, plans to develop the prison estate. While I will provide that for you, we are, of course, happy to discuss any questions that you may have on any wider prison issues.

You will be aware that this year is the final year of the formal reform programme for the Prison Service; however, we have said that change and reform will always be part of our prisons. We are clear that we see this as the end of the beginning and not the beginning of the end. Good progress continues to be made against the extensive programme of end-to-end transformational reform, guided by the 40 recommendations made by the prison review team. The prison review oversight group has now considered 37 of the 40 recommendations, with 20 of the recommendations signed off by the group. A further 11 have been referred to the Criminal Justice Inspection, and six more health-related recommendations have been referred to the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) for independent assessment. A more substantive and detailed update on reform will be provided to the Committee following the oversight group's final meeting in September.

The Committee will be aware that development of the prison estate was highlighted as a priority of the prison review team. Being candid, much of our current infrastructure is outdated and inefficient. This means that each of our prisons requires substantial and continuous investment over the next 10 years to ensure that we have a service that is effective, efficient and sustainable. We know what is needed, and our estates programme team, led by Max, has developed detailed plans for each of the prisons. The plans will deliver an improved working environment for our staff, and they will mean that our utilities will be much more efficient and that, most importantly, they will deliver better outcomes for prisoners. The need for a modernised prison estate is also evidenced by various independent reports.

For example, you will have seen the recent report by Criminal Justice Inspection and Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons on Magilligan, which underlines the need to address the issues with its buildings and overall infrastructure.

Following the publication of the NIPS estate strategy in 2012, the Minister addressed the Assembly and confirmed that he was committed to the redevelopment of Magilligan on the existing site, the building of a new women's facility separate to the existing young offenders centre and the building of 360-cell block at Maghaberry. In addition, the Minister highlighted the need to bring forward options to develop the high-security facility at Maghaberry as well as a new prison visits area. Each of those projects is a priority, and we have set out in your briefing the reasons why they must be progressed.

Given the historic capital underinvestment in prisons and taking account of the need to provide modern fit-for-purpose facilities for adult male and female prisoners, doing nothing is not an option. The 360 block at Maghaberry will go out to tender shortly, and a number of construction companies have already lodged their interest to construct this. That block will include 360 cells, each built to modern standards and comprising anti-ligature design and furniture. In addition, the block that will manage remand prisoners will have a support wing that will include learning and skills and resettlement facilities as well as healthcare and a high-dependency unit for exceptionally vulnerable or dangerous individuals. Adjacent to the 360 block will be a new visits area that will manage visits for all prisoners at Maghaberry. This will replace the existing visits facility, which has been in operation since the prison opened in 1986. This has significant limitations, given that it was originally designed to manage 432 prisoners, where Maghaberry routinely manages in excess of 1,000 prisoners daily. The new block will have enhanced surveillance and search facilities to better manage the smuggling of contraband through visits, particularly drugs. The new facility will also be significantly more staff-efficient, with good lines of sight to observe prisoners and their visitors.

The final part of the work to redevelop Maghaberry is the high-security facility. As the prison review team recognised, Maghaberry is managed to the highest security standards across the whole prison. The intention is to have the appropriate security measures in place to manage the prisoners who require the highest security, allowing the rest of the prison to develop security and regime arrangements that are proportionate for lower-risk prisoners.

You will have seen the need for particular investment in Magilligan prison when some of you visited last year. There has been very limited development since the prison was first occupied back in the early 1970s, and the only modern building there is Halward House. The remainder of the prison still relies largely on temporary accommodation, including Nissen huts and outdated H-blocks. Of particular concern is the deteriorating infrastructure at Magilligan, where there is an absolute need to spend capital now to upgrade security systems and replace existing infrastructure, including underground pipe work, sewers, security fences, electronic systems and lighting.

NIPS has prioritised capital expenditure on other sites in preference to Magilligan on the understanding that Magilligan would be redeveloped. If that is not now forthcoming, we will have no option but to upgrade existing systems and infrastructure, which, ultimately, could create significant expenditure as we await a decision on the rebuild. It is also important to emphasise that Magilligan needs a complete rebuild and that simply replacing H-blocks or temporary residential accommodation would not address concerns about the remaining infrastructure or other temporary buildings that are at the end of their lifespan. The decision to maintain a prison at Magilligan was widely welcomed across political, civic and community circles. If we are to realise that long-term commitment, we must be able to progress the long-overdue rebuild.

On our women's facility, everyone agrees that having women prisoners co-located with young offenders at Hydebank is not an acceptable long-term solution. The Minister has said on a number of occasions that he is committed to a new, separate female facility at Hydebank. The proposed new facility will address the lack of activity provision for women and the need to have support services for women, including those for domestic violence, mental health and addictions. The existing accommodation places unnecessary limitations on the level of intervention that can be provided to women and their families. This project is a priority for our service.

Developing the prison estate is a critical part of our work. Implementing the estate strategy will ensure that the Prison Service is properly equipped to manage prisoners sent to custody irrespective of their gender, age or background. It is critical that, whilst they are in custody, we provide every support to help individuals address their offending behaviour and prepare them for release into the community. Over and above the need to provide direct services and support to prisoners is the need to manage an efficient service. The existing sprawling establishments, the antiquated buildings and the absence of modern amenities create an estate that is expensive to staff, maintain and operate. As the senior leaders of the service, we are acutely aware that upgrading and building new prisons is not often popular and is sometimes not seen as a priority. We understand that our building projects are seen as being in competition with schools and hospitals. However, we are planning for sustainable, efficient and effective prisons that will serve our community for the next 50 years. That is how we play our part in building a safer Northern Ireland.

Finally, I would like to say something on the ongoing challenges at Roe House in Maghaberry. The Committee will be aware that this is a sensitive issue and a challenging environment for our staff to work in. The incident on 2 February demonstrated that our staff will respond professionally and effectively as required. I thank everyone involved for bringing the incident to a satisfactory conclusion. You will also be aware of an incident outside the prison during a protest, where a member of our staff was placed in a very difficult situation. I want to reassure the Committee that we have discussed this with senior colleagues in the PSNI to learn any lessons from it.

It is important to say that most prisoners observe prison rules and have good relationships with our staff. The values of the Prison Service are based on decency and respect. There is a small number of prisoners who do not treat our staff with respect or decency. When we are faced with such behaviours, it is our values and professionalism that prevail. The work of the independent assessors team is very important. Its stocktake report offered a way to normalise the regime at Roe House while maintaining the security that people would expect. I believe that that report still offers a way to end the tensions that exist in parts of Roe House. The Prison Service is ready to move forward with the independently chaired prisoner forum. However, it is up to the prisoners whether they want to take part. That is the way forward.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak today. We now welcome any questions that you have on any of the issues that I have raised or, indeed, on any other area of our work.

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): Thank you for that and for your willingness to answer our questions on wider issues. You talked about having an effective and sustainable service: clearly, that includes staffing levels. About a month ago, I asked the Minister for the number of prison officers leaving the service. In 2010, you had 63 leaving with no new prison officers recruited; in 2011, 47 left with nobody recruited; in 2012, 257 left with 140 recruited; in 2013, 323 left with 170 recruited; in 2014, 104 left the service and nobody was recruited; and, up until the end of January this year, nine people had left with nobody recruited. Clearly, there is an issue around capacity here. How understaffed do you feel you are in the Prison Service at present?

Mrs S McAllister: I will ask Mark to talk about the detail of the numbers. However, I will just reassure you that we are about to start a recruitment exercise that will allow us to replace the posts that are currently vacant. We are committed to recruiting and are now in agreement that we need to recruit. That exercise has started. We have pressed the button, and we will bring in new staff very soon. I will ask Mark to answer your question about specific numbers.

Mr Mark Adam (Northern Ireland Prison Service): I am happy to. We are about 80 below our target staffing levels across all our prisons. There is a reprofiling exercise that will adjust that slightly as the year goes on. We are starting to recruit now and will bring in officers in two or three intakes throughout the year. That will bring us up to whatever is the agreed target staffing level. Recruitment goes out the week after next, so we will have people coming in in the early part of the summer and then again in the autumn.

Mr Paul Cawkwell (Northern Ireland Prison Service): It is important to note that, where there is a structural deficit in the number of staff, overtime is available to fund the gap in full.

Mrs S McAllister: That is a very important point. Although we may have fewer staff than our funded staffing figure, the salaries that we are not paying to those staff are available in overtime. We can bring that back up to the required level.

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): The figures that I was shown indicate that it is up to 130 officers short rather than 80.

Mr Adam: I think that the exact number is 86. We can come back to you in writing.

Mrs S McAllister: We will check that and come back to you.

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): And you are confident that you have the budget in place to recruit the full 80.

Mr Adam: We have already achieved the budget to be able to fill it. As I say, 9,500 hours of overtime will plug the rest.

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): One of the other issues that I asked the Minister about and got figures for was the number of lockdowns in Maghaberry in the last three months of 2014. There were 28 in October, 50 in November, and, in December, the figure went up to 151. Some of those may have been to do with prisoner behaviour, but my understanding is that many of them were to do with staff shortages in Maghaberry. If you have the figures in front of you, can you give us a breakdown of how many of the lockdowns were a direct result of staff shortages?

Mrs S McAllister: I will ask Paul to talk in detail about the lockdowns. I will just say that we are very clear now about when we are talking about a lockdown and when we are talking about a restricted regime. When people talk about lockdowns, they sometimes mean a restricted regime where prisoners still have access to exercise, showers, phones, visits and so on. We have been required to restrict the regime in some circumstances at Maghaberry because of very high sickness levels and sometimes because of unforeseen pressures such as emergency admissions to hospital and so on. Paul might want to say a little more about that.

Mr Cawkwell: In truth, virtually all the lockdowns that we have referred to will have been because of some shortage where we considered that we did not have enough staff to run the safe regime that we want to run in all landings. However, I would like to contextualise that: 151 lockdowns reflects 151 landings being locked down at any one time. Look at how many landings there are in Maghaberry — I think that, at last count, there were 51 — and multiply that figure by the days in the month. That means that the lockdown figure is less than 3%, so, at any one time, 97% of the prison is not locked down.

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): You talk about a safe regime. Obviously, if there are shortages in staff or if there is a shortage of staff on a particular day, it puts staff members under grave threat and at grave danger. We all understand that Maghaberry is a very complex prison where there are different categories of prisoner. What are the ratios required for a safe regime to operate, particularly for category 1 prisoners? What is a safe ratio of prison officers to prisoners?

Mrs S McAllister: Paul will want to say something about this, but I have always said that talking about staff:prisoner ratios is not particularly helpful to us because it ignores, for example, what activity those prisoners are engaged in and what any dynamic risk assessment tells us about the mood of the prison. We prefer to have a process of risk assessing particular areas and groups of prisoners that makes sure that we always have the right number of staff to supervise those prisoners safely, given that prisoners will be engaged in a range of activities. For example, if you are talking about prisoners in an enclosed exercise yard in the fresh air, you would expect a much higher number of prisoners to be able to partake in that activity safely, whereas, if you have a smaller number in a workshop where there are tools, that is a different scenario.

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): But for prison officers going out onto a landing, if the landing is full, what is the safe ratio?

Mrs S McAllister: Again, I am not avoiding your question, but that would also depend on the design of the building. What are the lines of sight? What is the response should anything happen? How close by are other prison staff? What is the assessment of our staff, who are very professional at assessing these things in a dynamic way, of the mood of the prisoners and the likelihood of anything untoward occurring? Paul, do you want to add anything?

Mr Cawkwell: I would echo that. The important factors to bear in mind are that there is a work area risk assessment for every work area in the prison. Alongside that work area risk assessment is a document called a regime delivery quota. It is, if you like, the doctrine for how the prison will safely manage if it does not have what it considers to be the safe resources for the full range of activities to be run that day.

It guides managers as to how the should react, how they should adjust the regime and what precautions should be taken.

If you are looking for ratios per se, we do not have an arbitrary ratio that says 25:1. We have not followed organisations that have gone that way. We prefer to be sympathetic to the local information. If you are looking at the workforce ratios and the number of prison officers to the number of prisoners, across the European prison network only Sweden, Norway and the Republic of Ireland have more preferential ratios with fewer prisoners unlocked and members of staff. That says that in terms of our resource, NIPS is still at the upper end of the European prison network.

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): I take the point that there will be different necessities in different areas of the prison although I find it extraordinary that there is no guidance on a safe ratio on a landing. I have spoken to prison officers in the last number of weeks who feel that, because of the low levels of staff, they are put in dangerous positions and do not have enough members of staff on a landing at any one time, which puts them in danger. I find it extraordinary that there is no guidance that even prison officers would be aware of on what is a safe ratio to prisoners in the extremely dangerous situations they are in.

Mrs S McAllister: I absolutely take your point, but I think we said before that between us we have a considerable number of years working in prisons, probably about 100 years between us. We are absolutely clear that ratios are not helpful. Risk assessments and regime delivery quotas are helpful to us, and that is what we prefer to use.

Mr Cawkwell: We cannot lose sight of the fact that our estate is not large. We do not have separate prisons for category A, category B, category C and open conditions, so you will have a mixed economy of prisoners. I could not put in an arbitrary ratio that is fixed. It does not reflect the fact that I might have 25 prisoners in an area who would all be suitable for open conditions.

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): Do you conduct staff satisfaction surveys? If you do, what level are we at in the most recent?

Mrs S McAllister: Yes, we do, and Mark can talk about the detail. We have to use the same survey as the rest of the Civil Service. We are obliged to do that because we are part of the Civil Service. Sometimes, we would prefer to ask questions that were perhaps more geared to the unique nature of our work, but we are not allowed to do that. I think we are allowed to put a couple of questions in that are particular to prisons, but the rest of the time we ask the same questions as people who work in the Vehicle Licensing Agency, DARD or in Education. Mark, do you want to say a bit about our results?

Mr Adam: Yes. I am not going to try to paint a positive picture. We will not perform well against most of the questions we get because they ask about how much flexibility you have around your day or whether you can come and go from your workstation as you please. For the majority of civil servants, that is a lot more flexible than it is for our staff, so we perform very badly in those spaces.

The last survey was in the middle of our exit period, so people were very dissatisfied. It was well noted how long it took us to achieve that exit process and how dissatisfying it was for staff going through that, so we do have not got a high baseline in satisfaction. We have been putting in place a


engagement plan. We go out and do front-line forums and talk to staff. We think there is a turn now in attitudes for staff, but we do not have a baseline of where people are going in moving forward other than that they are very restricted in their job from having flexibility. That comes through and adds to the pressure they are under compared with the rest of the baseline in that survey, where people can come and go, leave early if they need to leave early


start and finish times, go to the toilet when they want to — all of those things — with our staff having to manage that within their regime, and we do not perform well.

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): I must say that, from speaking to prison officers over the last number of weeks, I have not detected any upturn in satisfaction, but it is hard to base that on any sort of fact.

Mr Adam: And we do not have a survey yet.

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): There was a discussion on the radio around lunchtime on drugs in prisons, not only illegal drugs in our prisons but prescribed drugs and how they are used as bargaining chips and how prisoners are swapping prescription drugs. The CJI report on Magilligan highlighted the fact that levels of drug use were high and there were no disciplinary consequences of a positive test result. Why is no action taken against a prisoner found with illegal drugs in their system?

Mrs S McAllister: It absolutely is. We have acted on a situation that we found to pertain in Magilligan, and prisoners now face disciplinary sanctions and, indeed, are often referred to the PSNI when we find drugs. Drugs are prevalent in our society, and we are part of that society. In many ways, we are a concentration of what exists in society. It is a very challenging area of our work, but we take it very seriously. We give it a high priority. We are doing work to challenge when we find drugs. Our intelligence-led searching means that we find more of those drugs. We know from talking to prisoners that it has become more difficult to find drugs in the prison because we are getting better at seeking them out. We are doing other things. Paul, you might want to talk about some of the other building work and the configuration that we are doing to make it more difficult.

Mr Cawkwell: We are not complacent about drugs. Magilligan is a success story, in that the drug rates have reduced by two thirds over the last year. In other areas, we know that we have much more work to do. With regard to Maghaberry, these are hard times for getting capital, but money has been found to upgrade the staff search facility and the search facility outside the prison as well as a corporate piece of work to produce a new drug strategy for NIPS.

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): Are there any changes in how prescription drugs among prisoners are regulated or how access to their drugs is restricted so that they cannot be used as a bartering tool?

Mrs S McAllister: Yes, we have worked with the South Eastern Trust. As you know, it delivers health care and is responsible for the management of medication. We have put in place, for some prisoners, something that we call supervised swallow, which means that prisoners have a nurse standing over them watching them take their medication. In some cases, that will be liquid medication so that they cannot regurgitate tablets. It is very expensive for the trust to provide nurses to do that. Nurses do not see that as a real use of their skills and qualifications, and that makes it difficult for the trust to attract nurses to work in prisons. It also slows down the rest of the regime. We need to do that only when it is absolutely essential, and we need to encourage prisoners to be responsible for their own medication. Some prisoners have been on prescription medication for a long time and need support to do that. In partnership with the trust, we have looked at the type of drugs that are prescribed. They now prescribe drugs that are less attractive to people who wish to divert them. We have seen prisoners who have been on medication for a long time suddenly stop asking for that medication, and the inference that we draw is that nobody wants to buy it from them any more. There is a lot of work going on. It is the responsibility of the South Eastern Trust, but we work with it to support its strategies.

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): You mentioned the disciplinary action against those who are found with drugs in their system. What about prisoners who make false or unfounded accusations against prison officers? If a prisoner does that, can disciplinary action be taken against them?

Mrs S McAllister: When I started working in prisons nearly 30 years ago, there was an internal disciplinary charge called "making a false and malicious allegation". That no longer exists because our use of the disciplinary code has become more mature and more sophisticated. In the same way as any citizen has protection against people making unfounded allegations, our staff have recourse through criminal law, but there is no internal disciplinary charge that relates specifically to that. That is not to say that, if a prisoner makes an allegation against a member of staff, there is nothing that he or she could do. That is not true. The circumstances will depend very much on the individual case.

Mr McGlone: I want to ask about a couple of things. The first one is the X-ray system that is mentioned in your briefing documentation; that is, the transmission X-ray full-body scanners. Can you give me a progress update on that, please?

Mrs S McAllister: Yes, we got something back in the last week or so, did we not, Paul?

Mr Cawkwell: This is a slow, laborious process. The initial justification application was sent in May 2013. We are the first devolved body to go through the justification process. It is governed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change in Westminster, so we have to follow its rules and procedures. We did not get a determination on that initial application until 9 December last year. All that the determination said was, "You can now proceed to make full application". It recognised that it was a new procedure, because, where x-ray technology has been used in the past, it is for the occasional traveller; it is not meant to be routinely deployed and gone through every day. There are question marks about the benefits that the organisation would gain from that technology versus the potential risks to the climate and the individual, and radiation. We have permission to go through the full justification process. Further research on the potential risks from radiation exposure is ongoing as part of that.

It is not a panacea. The application that went through recognised that, even if we were given permission to use that technology today and it were to be adopted, it does not yet do what we want it to do. That is following trials. The application is predicated on the potential for improvements to technology, and the industry believes that there will be improvements in technology; however, it is not there yet. In the meantime, we are fulfilling our obligations by looking at other methods of detection. There is a collaboration ongoing with a provider in Belfast, which may yet lead to a second pilot being run in a Northern Ireland prison within the next three to four months That is our hope, but we will not know until it is used. It is the Holy Grail for all prison services. If the technology existed, it would have been adopted: nobody likes putting anybody through a full body search. Whether your driver is decency or the costs involved in having to administer so many searches, everybody is looking for a solution.

Mr McGlone: I would like a wee bit of detail about the pilot that you are thinking of advancing with a firm in Belfast.

Mr Cawkwell: A particular piece of equipment — the multi-mode threat detector — is in use at Portlaoise. We have been to see it, and we have received reports on it from the Irish Prison Service, who tell us that it is not what we are looking for. That is not to decry the product, but they have not given us the assurance that it would do what they want it to do, and we do not think that it would do the same for us. There are certain things that simply would not be detected, and there are too many false positives registering at Portlaoise. A provider in Belfast said, "We recognise that. We have seen the technology. We are looking at enhancing it. Would you like to trial it?"

Mr McGlone: OK. I want to come on to issues of target staffing levels (TSLs) and staff in post (SIP). Looking at the figures, Maghaberry and Hydebank seem to jump out of the page as being under-provided for, if that is the correct phrase.

Mr Cawkwell: I can cover two parts. I will speak specifically about Hydebank. Those figures mask the fact that accommodation is closed at Hydebank. In terms of occupancy, the young offenders' estate is low in its population levels; therefore accommodation has been closed for a long time. The target staffing figure that you have is what our designs would be if the prison was full and we needed to staff it.

Mr McGlone: So it is technically wrong for what is there at the moment.

Mr Cawkwell: For Hydebank, yes. At Maghaberry, it is a structural deficit.

Mr McGlone: Maghaberry; OK. I am working down the page, with your indulgence, Chair. The paper mentions the impact of budgets, protecting people and the environment, the creation of safer communities and the reduction of offending. The departmental briefing states that:

"The budget reduction in this area will impact in the following ways:

The Service's ability to invest in new strategies to reduce offending and the grants available to voluntary and community organisations will be reduced.

The programme for alleged perpetrators and an Advocacy Service may not be progressed."

The third is:

"Drug Arrest Referrals may be reduced."

I do not know what that is, so I would appreciate some outline on it. I have raised this question with the Minister; you have probably seen it in Hansard. On the opposite page, you talk about the implications of the cuts: prisoners being confined to their cells for longer periods, no longer being able to respond as effectively to unforeseen events, and so on. The logic is to try to keep as many people, particularly reoffenders, as possible out of prison through earlier interventions. If the budget, which is not that huge for some of these organisations, is whittled away, that would be penny wise and pound foolish. If people are reoffending and coming back into the system, that is a considerable cost to you. If there is that much of a squeeze on and people are being crammed into prison, there may even be human rights implications further down the line. I do not know as I am not a legal person.

Mrs S McAllister: We have made significant reductions to our operating costs year on year, and we will have a significant challenge to live within our budget for next year. We have already had conversations with voluntary and community sector organisations. What we will do is come to an agreement with them that, together, we design something that delivers outcomes for offenders. Brian McCaughey, our director of rehabilitation, is leading on this for us and has had discussions already, and I have been part of that. For example, we have been paying some organisations to deliver programmes for us that relate to the employability of prisoners. However, in many of those, the organisations are not tied into outcomes for offenders. They do not tie anybody down to actually getting people jobs, keeping them in jobs or giving them skills to get jobs. Historically, it has been much more nebulous than that.

We are not writing voluntary and community sector partners out of our plans; we are just going to have to be much more businesslike in commissioning services from them, and they understand that. That is the world that we are all going to be operating in. It is about being more businesslike and eliminating duplication. We have found examples of more than one organisation paying the same partner organisation to deliver something. We will not be able to afford that; we really have to sharpen up. We, as a senior team, have honed our skills in the commissioning and co-design of services so that we are much more intelligent customers when we go to organisations.

We will be doing things very differently, but we value hugely the role of the voluntary and community sector. As you said, we understand that part of our role — as well as managing everybody who is sent to us by the courts — is, as the reducing offending directorate, to work to provide alternatives. For example, we have been working with organisations that provide bail and step-down accommodation to try to keep people out of prison when they do not need to be there.

Mr McGlone: What are the issues around drug arrest referrals?

Mrs S McAllister: That is not prisons.

Mr McGlone: It is aside from you. It is just that it was thrown in here, and I was wondering what it was about.

Mrs S McAllister: That is core DOJ.

Mr McGlone: OK, that is grand. What are the implications of the cuts for service delivery?

Mrs S McAllister: We are doing a reprofiling exercise across the three prisons, and that exercise is led by Paul. We have said before that reprofiling is something that we will do annually from now on to make sure that we have the resources in the right place at the right time to do the right things. However, unpredictable curtailment of the regime makes life much more difficult for our staff and for prisoners, who may want, for example, to contact their families or participate in certain activities. We have determined that it would be much better, more decent and more efficient to put in place some predicted and well-managed reductions in the regime. That will be led by Paul, and it will essentially mean a shorter core day for some prisoners.

Mr Cawkwell: May I elaborate on that? It is a shorter core day insofar as the morning is shortened; the evening is not. The opportunity to speak to your family still exists, but we are shortening the length of the morning at Magilligan and Hydebank. One of the key drivers of this is that we recognise that providing activity for all prisoners is a challenge for us as an organisation. Magilligan has just had what would otherwise have been an exceptional inspection report; it was the first time that any Northern Ireland prison reached a top mark for resettlement. The one area where we failed Magilligan was that we increased the size of the prison by 140 prisoners to cope with the rise in population but did not put the activity places in place. Shortening the length of the morning allows us to get more out of the learning and skills and the activities contracts and to enable more people to participate in the mornings.

Mr McGlone: What do you mean by shortening the length of the morning? Is it by one hour, two hours —

Mr Cawkwell: Instead of unlocking people at 8.00 am for breakfast, we make sure that breakfast is delivered to prisoners in advance and then unlock them at 9.00 am to go to work.

Mr Elliott: Thanks. I noticed in your presentation that Magilligan is to be rebuilt in 2023-24. That is nine years away. What will happen in the interim?

Mr Max Murray (Northern Ireland Prison Service): There is an enabling works plan available, in place and ready to go if we get the funding to move forward with Magilligan. We have just got business case approval, so the next thing is to secure the funding that we need.

Mr Elliott: Is that for the newbuild?

Mr Murray: Yes. We now have full business case approval, so we can move forward. The issue is the absence of capital funding; that is the current debate. However, we have an enabling works plan that will allow us to get through the next nine years. Given the deterioration in the infrastructure, it will be challenging; however, it is doable if we move now.

Mr Elliott: Are those enabling works proposals costly?

Mr Murray: I do not have an exact figure, but you would be talking about £1 million to £2 million to maintain basic services and clear parts of the operational site to allow the new development to commence.

Mr Elliott: My second quick question is about drug use in prisons. I asked about this the last day that you were up, and you highlighted the success and how the situation appeared to be improving. Do you still feel that that is the case?

Mrs S McAllister: I do. We are improving in a number of areas. We have said before that our intelligence-led approach to searching means that we find more drugs. Our work in partnership with the South Eastern Trust means that there are fewer attractive drugs for diversion and that arrangements to supervise prisoners taking medication are better. We know that, across the piece, the number of prisoners testing positive in random mandatory drug testing is reducing. However, it will always be a challenging area, and there will always be more to do. Paul, do you want to say any more about that?

Mr Cawkwell: We had tremendous successes this year in reducing assaults in prisons. The one area where I would like to see more investment next year in management is drugs supply reduction. We changed tack at Magilligan and achieved very good results. The benefits at Hydebank and Maghaberry have been marginal; there has been improvement but not significant improvement. We showed in a brief pilot with the police what can be done when organisations work together. There was improvement at that time. We know that the investment that we are putting into the search facilities at Maghaberry will strengthen our grip, as will producing a refreshed drugs strategy for the service and working with health. There is no new money in the real world, but we are asking health to move money around, to vire money, so that we get a better return on what is paid out for drug treatments. We think that that will have an impact.

Mr Elliott: Would you describe the drugs situation in Northern Ireland's prisons as serious or moderate?

Mrs S McAllister: I would probably describe it as reflecting the challenges that exist in society. As I said before, we are a concentration. However, schools and other organisations have a challenge because drugs are an increasing problem for us as a society. Some prisoners come to our doors with very serious long-term addictions. People will exhibit drug-seeking behaviour throughout their stay with us and be very ingenious in trying to work out ways to find drugs. However, many people in custody want to come off drugs and address addiction, and we saw evidence of that high level of motivation in a drug recovery pilot that we ran at Maghaberry in conjunction with the South Eastern Trust and Start360. It is easy, sometimes, to use highly emotive language about prisons and drugs; however, "challenging" is the word that I would use if I had to choose.

Mr Cawkwell: Let us not forget that much of the substance abuse in prisons is of prescribed medication: 80% of the population of Maghaberry is on prescribed medication. That is a fact. Over a quarter of the population at Maghaberry will have received an urgent referral to mental health services. No matter what the measure of vulnerability and challenge, whether personality disorders, psychotic disorders or depression, the population of Maghaberry is acute and requires much medical support; it


in drug-seeking behaviour and trading.

Mr Douglas: The Criminal Justice Inspection report published on 26 February says, in reference to Magilligan, that:

"performance has slipped since it was last inspected in 2010 and action is needed to prevent a further decline."

Sue, you mentioned some of the actions that you are going to take. The report goes on to state that there is "insufficient purposeful activity for prisoners". I have worked in prisons for years with prisoners and their families, as well as ex-prisoners, and for me insufficient purposeful activity is one of the most negative things for any prisoner. Interestingly, I spoke to someone yesterday who worked with prisoners, and he said that there is a problem, certainly in Maghaberry at the moment, as the courses are very often oversubscribed. The prisoners enjoy them, and they are helpful to them. How are you dealing with that major issue?

Mrs S McAllister: First, the negative headlines in that report did not reflect the feedback that we received. We had failed only one of the four tests for a healthy prison, namely purposeful activity. That said, it is a crucial area. The report was on an inspection from some months ago, since when we have made real progress; Paul knows the numbers. We have gone from small numbers of prisoners working out of Magilligan to typically around — do you know the figure, Paul? About 40?

Mr Cawkwell: You have about 28 employers or providers of training services regularly taking staff from —

Mrs S McAllister: That would be more than one prisoner to each. As Paul said, we increased the population without building more intensive infrastructure to support activities. I have issued something of a challenge to various stakeholder groups. We are working very hard, and I personally do a lot to engage with outside groups, voluntary and community-sector groups and employers. A good number of people are willing to provide purposeful activity, inside our prisons and outside through jobs. The difficulty is that we need people to champion that and to respond when the media get hold of it and make it a point of honour to get these people sacked or discourage groups from working in partnership with us. We really do need people to work with us, because a good deal of my time is spent on issues of employment and education. That is crucial; we need to do more, but we cannot do it all on our own.

Mr Murray: One of the elements in the plans for the new prison is sufficient constructive activity places. There is a balance to strike between the amount of investment now and funding for the new prison. The new prison, however, will have 800 places. That is what we are planning for.

Mr Douglas: I mentioned some of the negatives, but I want to recognise the real progress identified by the report.

Mr Lynch: Sorry, I had to go out. You mentioned, Sue, that the stocktake was an opportunity to normalise the prison. Was it an opportunity missed, and where do we go from here?

Mrs S McAllister: We do not believe that it has yet been missed, and we still see it as an opportunity; we are still committed to the outworkings of the stocktake, particularly the independently chaired forum. We continue to work through that with the independent assessors, the Minister and others; but it is tricky stuff — we have always said that — and progressing those recommendations is taking longer than we had hoped. It is still the way forward, nonetheless.

Mr Lynch: Is engagement with prisoners in Roe House continuing, or has that been broken off?

Mrs S McAllister: It has been sporadic; communication has been taking place at some times and not at others. We continue to use the Minister's independent assessors as interlocutors where appropriate. There is daily engagement with the staff who work on those landings and the managers, as well as at a more strategic level. The key to improving the quality and quantity of communications is getting the forum up and running.

Mr Poots: Remind me what percentage of prisoners use prescribed drugs?

Mr Cawkwell: Eighty per cent in Maghaberry.

Mr Poots: Does the drug testing that Randox complained about not being able to tender for cover prescribed drugs or non-prescribed drugs?

Mr Cawkwell: Just to put the record straight, Randox


We routinely test for eight substances, but we have permission in our existing contract, and in any future contract, to test for any other substance; we simply have to say what it is we want to be tested.

Mr Poots: It seems to me that you have gone for a second-rate drug-testing mechanism to reduce administration costs.

Mr Cawkwell: I can clarify. I do not believe that to be the case. The PSNI will tell you that 348 new psychoactive substances are known to them now: some are illicit; others are not yet illegal. As soon as something is made illegal, a clever chemist puts a grain of salt in it, changes the chemical compound and you have a new test. The only way to make the testing regime foolproof is to follow the athletics bodies by taking somebody's DNA body footprint today, and again six months later to see whether it has changed. We simply could not do that; we do not have the money that the Olympics movement has.

Mr Poots: It strikes me as a little unusual that a company operating in 151 countries struggles to get a legitimate testing regime here on the basis that it is more convenient for administration purposes to do it with the Scottish.

Mrs S McAllister: Competitive tendering has to be absolutely transparent so that you or I, if we wanted to, could satisfy ourselves that it has been properly administered.

Mr Poots: I would not necessarily say that we are satisfied, to be honest. Moving on, are the new civilian officers that you brought in second-class officers?

Mrs S McAllister: We do not have anything called "civilian officers".

Mr Poots: The civilians in the Prison Service. They are regarded as dispensable, are they? Civilian staff in the Prison Service.

Mrs S McAllister: Non-uniformed staff?

Mr Poots: Civilian staff, not prison officers. Are they regarded as dispensable?

Mrs S McAllister: No.

Mr Poots: That is good, because it emerged in the last week that security notifications to those individuals had stopped.

Mrs S McAllister: Mark and Paul are in discussion with Bryan Milford from NIPSA. We are given information by the PSNI; we do not own that information. The information-sharing protocols are very clear that it is PSNI information that it shares with us. When it gives us information that any member of our staff is at risk or under threat, we share that information immediately. If that information is specifically about prison officers, we can share it only with prison officers.

Mr Poots: They will still get security notification, but, if it is specific to prison officers, only prison officers will get that.

Mrs S McAllister: Yes, we will make sure that Bryan Milford, on behalf of NIPSA, understands that. That is absolutely not a judgement on the respective value of any of our staff, it is just the rules that we have to follow; otherwise we would not receive that information at all from the police. They have made it absolutely clear to us that if we do not follow their protocols, they will cut off the flow of information.

Mr Poots: Fair enough. There were issues that led you to step up security at Roe House . Had you a gold command there?

Mrs S McAllister: Yes.

Mr Poots: When was that gold command stood down?

Mrs S McAllister: Once the incident had ended. I know that, because Paul was gold command, and I also stayed until gold had closed. Contrary to suggestions that I have also heard that it was stood down before the incident had ended, it was fully open until we were satisfied that the incident had been brought to a conclusion.

Mr Cawkwell: There were two separate incidents at Maghaberry on the same day. One was prison management, and it was finished before 7.00 pm, and gold closed at 7.08 pm or 7.09 pm. It was a separate incident managed by the police and not by gold command. Gold at Dundonald House shut at the same time as silver shut its operation at Maghaberry prison.

Mr Poots: So, gold command closed at 7.00 pm, which was a relatively short time before a fairly substantial protest took place in the grounds of the prison.

Mrs S McAllister: Outside the prison.

Mr Cawkwell: Police provenance.

Mr Poots: Was it prison property or public property?

Mrs S McAllister: It was outside the external gate, but we —

Mr Poots: Was it prison property or public property?

Mrs S McAllister: It is not within our gift to police incidents such as the one that took place; we simply have no authority to do that.

Mr Poots: So, it was not prison property.

Mr Cawkwell: We have a memorandum of understanding with the police that says where our responsibilities start and stop, and they stop at the external gate.

Mr Poots: A lot of us were horrified when we watched one of your officers drive into a circumstance that could have turned out to be much worse.

Mrs S McAllister: Paul and I have already met one of the assistant chief constables to discuss why that happened. I am sure that you would not want me to share that with you in a public forum. However, we have met and have addressed the issues that perhaps contributed or led to that happening and have made arrangements to make sure that we address any repetition.

Mr Poots: I also met the deputy and the Chief Constable over the issue, and I do not think that the public would find it acceptable that the Prison Service is batting it over to the PSNI and the PSNI is batting it over to the Prison Service. One of your officers was put at risk, and she should not have been put in that position. You had a gold command operating, which was stood down a couple of hours prior to that; that, in itself, causes concern.

Mrs McAllister, were any threats issued in the prison over the Roe House incident? Were any threats made against prison officers?

Mrs S McAllister: May I consult my colleagues on that? We are not being difficult and would be happy to have a conversation with you about this, but we are a little uncomfortable sharing some of the sensitive nature of this conversation in this setting.

Mr Poots: About threats?

Mrs S McAllister: About our staff. If you wish us to continue, we will; equally, we might prefer to have that conversation —

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): If it is helpful, we could move into closed session for a time to discuss the issue, and we could then open the meeting up again. Do Members agree to that?

Members indicated assent.

The Committee went into closed session from 4.15 pm until 4.35 pm.

On resuming —

Mr Hazzard: Thanks for the presentation. What is the latest update on the new women's facility? Where are we with that?

Mr Murray: We have the outline business case developed. It is with our colleagues in finance and in the financial services directorate (FSD) in DOJ. We hope that it will go to DFP shortly for final determination, so we have the plans and the indicative plans.

Mrs S McAllister: It is probably worth saying that we have also started work on the step-down facility for women. This is a six-bedroom house that is being built outside the perimeter of Hydebank. It is under construction and will be completed by the summer; and it will provide, essentially, six open places for women who are coming towards the end of their sentences or who do not need conditions of security. It is for people who, in old speak, would have been assessed as category D prisoners. There are six places there. The women's prison we are planning will have 36 cells, and there will be a number of these six-bedroom, self-supporting, low-supervision units within the perimeter. That number can be flexible in order to take account of fluctuations in the population. We are making a decision to have only 36 cellular places based on our assessment of the security needs of the women's population. A good number of them do not need to be in cellular accommodation.

Mr Hazzard: Are resources set aside to begin this if planning is granted?

Mr Murray: The issue is around capital funding. This year's capital funding has been reduced by around 50%, so we are limited in what we can progress this year. As Sue said in her introductory remarks, we will commence the work on the new 360-cell block at Maghaberry. The invitation to tender will go out shortly, but we would not be able to progress work on Magilligan or on the new women's prison if the planning approval were through because we have no assurance of funding beyond the 2015-16 financial period. We are now discussing with DFP, through the DOJ, how we can make progress with the implementation of the estates strategy. We have £200 million worth of business case approvals in place at the moment, and we now need to find out how we will get that funding stream to allow the annual funding requirements of around envelopes of £30 million to progress. We think that there is a major benefit at the end of the programme, but, obviously, we are in the hands of others who control the purse strings.

Mr Hazzard: I think there is a real need to push ahead with this, because facilities have been needed for a number of years and have been promised for a number of years. The sooner the better.

Mr Dickson: Turning to some progressive issues, I listened with interest to some of the programme on Radio Ulster today. I appreciate the difficulties you have with the prison estate with the costs involved in improvements and building programmes, and I will maybe make one side comment. A regular criticism that comes across our desks in this place and in debates about things that have happened in the past is this; "Why have you spent so much money, indeed sometimes millions of pounds, on doing repairs and temporary replacements when, over that length of time, it would have been much more sensible to have knocked down and rebuilt?". Will you comment on that aspect?

Going on from the radio programme, what innovative ways does the Prison Service have and what contribution do you make to the debate around everything from appropriate and secure tagging of people in the community to step-down facilities and to more open facilities, either as people progress towards the end of their sentence or, indeed, quite often from very shortly into their sentence when they do not actually pose a serious threat to the community but their liberty has to be deprived as the court has determined? For example, I heard somebody saying today on that radio programme that you can have weekend prisoners. I am interested to hear your comments and views on that. What contribution is NIPS making to that discussion?

Mrs S McAllister: As you may know, we are part of a reducing offending directorate, which includes youth justice and has responsibility for policy relating to the community provision. We have a dotted line, if you like, with colleagues in the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI), so we are part of that debate.

We have Burren House on the Crumlin Road, which was the assessment unit. That is now operating successfully and with strict controls but doing a good job in testing people before they return to the community. The step-down house that I just talked about will be an equivalent facility for women.

We also work in partnership with the community and voluntary sector, which provides hostel accommodation. There are hostels across Northern Ireland often run by Church-based and faith-based organisations that take prisoners who are technically still serving a sentence.

We have been looking at the other end around bail and whether we could do more to support bail provision. Last week, I went with a colleague from Extern to look at what was being done in another jurisdiction to provide bail accommodation. If we could give more options on sentences, the courts may be more willing to look at alternatives to remanding people in custody. We work closely with the Parole Commissioners to look at how people can be released safely on licence, and at recalls from licence, to understand why recalls are higher than we would want.

To my knowledge, weekend prison has not been tried here. When it was tried in England and Wales, there was barely any take-up from judges and magistrates. Perhaps it is because it is not in our psyche. It is successful and well-used in Scandinavian countries. Some people go to prison Monday to Friday and others at the weekend. That sort of hot-bedding in prisons makes best use of capacity.

It has not proved popular where the concept has been tested in England and Wales, so I do not know what appetite there would be for that here. If there was an appetite at a political level, we would be obliged to consider it, but we think that more pragmatic solutions are available to us in regularly and successfully testing people for their return to the community.

In respect of spending on repairs, Max is probably best-placed to answer that.

Mr Murray: There is a presumption nowadays that we do not put in temporary buildings. We would do that only if there were a dire and urgent need. The last one we put in for residential accommodation was the Alpha unit at Magilligan. That was at a time when the prison population was increasing at around 10% per annum and we had no choice but for a quick fix.

The presumption now is for permanent builds across our three sites. The implementation of the estates strategy becomes critical, because a lot of our temporary buildings, for example the Nissen huts at Magilligan, and the temporary accommodation in Alpha, Foyleview and Sperrin are approaching the end of their lifespans. If we do not move now to build a new accommodation block at Magilligan, we are going to be put in a position where we are going to have to look to perhaps temporary accommodation because that will be the only option. That would be extremely unhelpful and regrettable given where we are at this time.

Mr A Maginness: Time is moving on and a lot of my questions have been answered. I wish you well with the prison reform programme. Max referred to the 50% cut in capital expenditure. Day-to-day expenditure has been affected as well to some extent. Can you manage the programme or reshape it to cope with the reductions in budget?

Mrs S McAllister: It will be a challenge but we are not facing any challenge that other people in the public sector are not facing. Our criminal justice partners are seeing similar budget reductions and, across the public service, people are seeing bigger cuts to their budgets than have ever been seen.

In response to your question about the reform programme, we have had to look at some of the 40 recommendations and determine whether we can meet them in the spirit in which they were intended, even if we cannot deliver what was envisaged at the time. For example, working with our colleagues in PBNI, rolling out the "Inspire' model for young men has proved to be a challenge. They have now found a solution, and it might not look as it was conceived by the prison review team, but we will meet some of those recommendations. We have been absolutely clear that our budget reductions must drive creativity and make us think the unthinkable rather that allow us to petrify and give up. We will deliver it, but some of it might look different.

Mr A Maginness: Thank you very much. The Magilligan report, in the main, was not bad, but there were some criticisms that have already been addressed by one of my colleagues. An issue was identified in paragraph 2.30 on page 34, which stated:

"In our survey, 41% of Catholic prisoners compared to 27% of Protestant prisoners said they had been victimised by a member of staff."

It went on to state:

"Data consistently showed that Catholics were disproportionately represented in relation to discipline and the IEP Scheme. These discrepancies were not being investigated robustly by managers, and prisoners were not being formally consulted with to ascertain their experiences and concerns."

What is your comment on that and what action has been taken? In the past, I know that there were complaints about the disproportionate number of Catholics who were under discipline within the Prison Service generally. I thought that this had been addressed a couple of years ago. That was before your time.

Mrs S McAllister: We give a significant amount of management attention to the issue of poorer outcomes for some parts of the prisoner community. As you know, every prison has an equality and diversity committee, which is attended by external members as well, including representatives from Criminal Justice Inspection. We know that that continues to be an issue.

I will let Paul say something on this in a moment, because on his monthly visits — fortnightly in the case of Maghaberry — he drills down into the data and confirms that we are very good at identifying what that data is telling us. On all that stuff that you just said about poorer outcomes for some sections, Alban, we are very good at identifying where the hotspots are and where we need to focus. However, we need to get better at determining and understanding why that is the case so that we can do something about it. Paul, do you want to say something else about that?

Mr Cawkwell: If you were to sample it for the first time now, you would find that the processes are sound in how the data is analysed, who is present when it is analysed and what sort of external oversight exists towards it. We have somebody from CJINI who is embedded at those meetings so that they can satisfy themselves, but the outcomes are still not right in different areas and that will take time to filter through.

I am satisfied that the governors are applying the probity they need to apply. As a potted example; if a disproportionately high number of Catholic prisoners are being placed on report, governors will enquire whether it is happening in a particular area of a prison, whether it is a particular officer within that area, whether it is for a particular offence and whether there is something about the regime and the way it is operating that encourages this. They are asking those questions, and my sense is that they are applying the right level of enquiry. My experience is that what gets measured gets done, so you will see improvement gradually. It will not happen overnight and it will take time. I have not yet seen the outcomes that I want to see.

Mr Adam: We ran some additional training on this about three weeks ago because of that hotspot. It was to make sure that the people who were chairing the meetings and were part of the meetings are properly identifying all the issues and are drilling down and coming back to the following meetings with actions and outcomes rather than just playing lip service to it and things like that. We are upping the game.

Mr McCartney: I appreciate the opportunity to speak further, Chair. I know that I asked questions in the closed session as well.

I want to make a number of observations. I refer back to the Anne Owers report. I was in Hydebank today, and the college, and how it has panned out and is working is impressive. Would the trajectory towards the college have happened without the Anne Owers report?

Mrs S McAllister: Would it have happened?

Mrs S McAllister: The 40 recommendations in the Owers report have given us permission to do some things that might have been more difficult to do, given the financial landscape; so they may have been pushed back against the concept of a college, which will be more expensive in some ways, in that the contract with Belfast Metropolitan College will give us financial challenges in some areas. Therefore, I hope so. I think that the leadership at Hydebank is committed to making it happen, and there is a great deal of support, certainly from the Justice Minister and others, for it to happen. I think it makes sense for it to happen, and the early signs are really encouraging.

Mr McCartney: There did not seem to be much evidence of it moving towards that until it was given a bit of impetus — I say it as broadly as that. I say that because I think that the Owers report allowed a snapshot of where prisons were at and where they should be progressing. That was the theory, and then the practice had to come. When you are in Maghaberry and speak to senior management, they talk about the number of prisoners, the complexity, the rollover remands, fine offenders and top security, and then you have the separate regimens in Roe House. One of the recommendations was to have four "mini-prisons". From our observations from going to Maghaberry, there was always a coolness towards that from the management, and it has not been progressed. The Owers report took us to the Hydebank changes, which most people see as being progressive. How much are we held back from putting proper regimens in place in Maghaberry, which might help you resolve the issues in Roe House as well?

Mrs S McAllister: Absolutely. Colleagues may want to come in on this. We talked about the 360 block at Maghaberry. That block is the first, tangible, visible piece in the work to reconfigure Maghaberry into three discrete areas, although with shared services, to give it some efficiency. The 360 block will enable us to start to plan a configuration and regimes that will allow for three very separate populations: a high-security facility; one for remand prisoners, and one that will not need to have those high-security levels of provision. There has been some nervousness about it at local level, and we understand that completely. Paul has done a great deal of work with the local leadership to reassure them about that and explain what it means. That remains what we are committed to deliver, because it will take a significant amount of cost out of Maghaberry and improve outcomes at the same time.

Mr McCartney: Thank you. I have two observations on the Magilligan report. First, what will be done to bring it back to where the last report was, and how do you think the slippage happened? This is not a case for poor physical conditions, but one of the observations made by the inspectorate was:

"good standards of cleanliness, a decent although rather bleak external environment, good time out of cell, combined with good relationships between staff and prisoners".

I think that that is important. We want to see new prisons and better facilities, but if the regime is one where people are locked up and there is no purposeful activity, then the shiny building does not compensate for that.

Mrs S McAllister: No, absolutely. We have said this before: in relation to the four tests, we had only slipped back on one, which was due to the rising population and not enough purposeful activity space, so we need to be clear about that. One of the things we probably need to explain to some external stakeholders who are commenting on this is that, when we talk about absence of constructive activity in Magilligan, the alternative is not that prisoners are locked in their cells, because they are not; the default position at Magilligan is that prisoners' cells are open. I have worked in Magilligan alongside officers for a shift on a block and seen that that is real. Prisoners' cells are unlocked in the morning, and they remain open during the core day. That is not to say that we do not need to put constructive activity in place — we do — but we are not locking people up as an alternative to constructive activity. People have some things to do; it is just not what we would call purposeful activity. There is not enough vocational training, there is not enough education, and there is not enough intervention work provided.

Mr McCartney: How do we bridge that gap?

Mrs S McAllister: How do we bridge that gap? We — Sorry, Mark do you want to come in?

Mr Adam: I was just going to add that we are in the final stages of agreement with DEL to bring the North West Regional College into Magilligan and the Belfast Met into Hydebank and Maghaberry. That will significantly increase our ability to deliver education and vocational education right across the board. There is quite an exciting list, and it is cheaper. Given the way that DEL can lever funding and things like that that we cannot, we are able to get a much higher provision. That should bridge the gap where we have been unable to put some of that really purposeful activity in place. It has just been activity to give qualifications and to be able to give real work experience. Within the last couple of weeks


so, from 1 April, they should be in place and expanding our curriculum across all three jails.

Mr McCartney: What increase do you expect? Will there be many more? One of the discussions that we have had, even during the Anne Owers report, is that courses are sometimes limited to 12 people and that there are sometimes dropouts. So, rather than having only 12 places, you could have 24 people on the course. They may not all want to do the exam, but at least that is an attempt.

Mrs S McAllister: You are right. We need to be cleverer about timetabling and scheduling, and we have been looking at the tools other organisations use to account for all that. You are absolutely right, because if prisoners are on a course, they also need to take their visits and take health care appointments where they need to. You are right. It is not good enough to say that a course is for 12 people, so we start with 12 people and that it is all well and good if people drop out. We cannot afford to do that any more.

It is also fair to say that, since the report was written, we have increased the number of working-out opportunities for prisoners. A good number of the prisoners in Magilligan are suitable for that. We continue to work with potential local employers and organisations, because that was always part of the agreement on which the decision to keep Magilligan was predicated. We need to optimise access to those opportunities as well.

Mr McCartney: I have one final point, which was covered mostly in the closed session. The opportunity exists for the independent assessment team to progress this, and I do not think that we should give that up.

Mrs S McAllister: Absolutely. Thank you.

Mr Frew: I have a couple of points, Chair. In answer to Patsy's question, you mentioned the scanning machines and said that there were issues that still have to be resolved or advanced with the technology. In the pilot scheme, there was an issue with the differences in detecting metal compared with other materials. Is that the case? Is there a blind spot for non-metallic material?

Mr Cawkwell: Is your question specifically on the X-ray machines or in general?

Mr Frew: The X-ray scanner.

Mr Cawkwell: The X-ray technology was more about the size of the articles that it could detect. If you are looking at substance misuse and drugs, you find that we tend to find really small quantities that an X-ray machine simply would not detect.

Mr Frew: The standard operating procedure when prisoners get injured is that an ambulance may be called or an accident report may be filled out. Is there a standard operating procedure for staff members?

Mrs S McAllister: Do you mean when a staff member is injured?

Mr Frew: I mean when they are injured at work.

Mr Cawkwell: There are a number of procedures if staff get injured at work. The law requires us to have first-aiders on-site to deal with incidents, and we have enough first-aiders to contend with that. The law also requires us to make sure that we use an accident book and the health and safety apparatus that goes alongside it, and we use that. Protocols have been agreed with a couple of hospitals, whereby if staff were at risk of contamination, they would be fast-tracked through the process so that they received the right treatment at the right time without delay. So, if prophylaxis is required, that is a necessity. So, we have a number of procedures in place.

Mr Frew: This is my last question. You talked about a recruitment drive. Would it be possible to get us the correct prospectus or curriculum — that is not the right word — that a recruit would go through?

Mrs S McAllister: Do you mean the training programme? Absolutely. No problem.

Mr Frew: Am I right that it is eight weeks?

Mrs S McAllister: Yes.

Mr Adam: It is eight weeks. Given that we will bring people into prisoner escort and custody services (PECS) and train those officers, our view of the new recruitment programme is that it should be a 10-week programme. One week of that is a white sheet, but we can give you the full curriculum.

Mr Frew: That would be great. How much of that is actual practical experience in the environment in which they will be working?

Mr Adam: The majority of that stuff is practical and takes place in kind of mock cells and has those kind of elements. That is coupled with classroom experiences. We have learned from the previous training that we need to spend more time training officers on live wings, rather than mock cells. We will do more of that in the new programme, and we will increase it. It is probably 60% to 70% practical, with the rest classroom-based. We might go a bit further with the practical.

Mr Frew: It would be useful to have that information and maybe some on the differential with the previous recruitment programmes. That would be great.

The Chairperson (Mr Ross): Thank you, everyone. Thanks very much for your time.

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