Published Tuesday, 01 October 2013
Hydebank Young Offenders Centre in south Belfast. (© Presseye)
The report, which was carried out by Criminal Justice Inspectorate, made 150 recommendations for both Hydebank Wood Young Offenders' Centre and Ash House, the regions only women's prison, which share a huge site on the outskirts of south Belfast.
It criticised the safety, rehabilitation and frequent lock-downs at the two jails and found that women inmates are being strip-searched far too frequently.
The CJI said: "All women were needlessly strip searched on arrival and randomly after visits, which was excessive."
Ash House, which holds 57 prisoners, was found to be clean and physical conditions were mostly good, however inspectors said the site was unsuitable.
The new leadership team in place at Hydebank Wood YOC and Ash House must work to deliver fundamental improvement outcomes for prisoners
Brendan McGuigan, CJI
They raised concerns about intimidation from juveniles and said women were suffering because of the frequent lockdowns at the adjacent youth facility.
"Overall, this was a disappointing inspection," the report concluded.
"In particular because women continued to be held in a predominantly male prison which was having a significant and intractable impact upon outcomes they experienced.
"Women were reasonably well cared for but they were inevitably marginalised and restricted in their access to facilities and services.
"Many security arrangements were overly restrictive, often instigated to address issues in the YOC, and had a disproportionate consequential impact on women."
Meanwhile some of the issues raised about Hydebank Wood, which houses 171 young men aged between 18 and 21, included concerns about safety, a disengaged attitude of some staff, and keeping prisoners locked in their cells for too long.
It said: "There was significant regime slippage, frequent and unpredictable lock-downs and activities were often cancelled at short notice, all of which was fundamentally disrespectful.
"There were not enough activity places, and what was available was poorly utilised. It was of particular concern that only a small number of prisoners accessed work or education regularly and that levels of attainment and accreditation were low."
Since this inspection was undertaken there have been major changes.
Prison Service Director General Sue McAllister
Prison Service Director General Sue McAllister welcomed the findings of the inspection, which was conducted in February, and said there have been major changes since then.
She explained: "Whilst I acknowledge the negative findings of both reports, it must be borne in mind that this inspection was carried out at what was a very challenging time for the Prison Service, particularly at Hydebank Wood.
"A new management team is in place, supported by a director of offender policy and operations and a director of rehabilitation, both of which are based at headquarters.
"Issues of drug misuse are now tackled in a dynamic, intelligence-led manner and exciting plans for the creation of a Secure College, which will concentrate on the provision of essential skills for prisoners enhancing their prospects of employment post release, are under development."
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