Efforts needed to tackle prison drugs

Published Wednesday, 18 July 2012
Toggle font size

The new head of Northern Ireland Prison Service has said the authority must work at reducing the amount of illicit drugs entering their institutions.

Efforts needed to tackle prison drugs
Sue McAllister, who is the new head of Northern Ireland Prison Service. (© UTV)

Director General Sue McAllister said the service needs to build up its intelligence about illegal substances through better relations between warders and inmates.

Prison Ombudsman Pauline McCabe wants more done to tackle the problem following the death of Aaron Hogg, 21, who was found dead in his Maghaberry Prison cell in May last year after taking a cocktail of drugs.

One solicitor has claimed the high security jail was awash with narcotics.

Ms McAllister said: "With finite resources we need to be a bit cannier about where we target.

"There is a place for random testing and it is a good deterrent but equally we probably should get better at building a rich picture of intelligence trends through knowing what is going on in our jails so that we can target areas for testing."

The 51-year-old mother of two is the first woman to hold the most senior position in the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

She took up post at the beginning of this month and will be paid an annual salary of £100,000, replacing Colin McConnell, who left to become head of the Scottish Prison Service.

Mrs McAllister`s last posting was at Onley Prison in Northamptonshire and she has 25 years` experience in the prison service, including as a governor of a prison and a young offenders' centre.

She was part of a review team which produced a highly critical report on the Prison Service after Colin Bell died by suicide in Maghaberry in July 2008 while being monitored.

Earlier this month, a prisoner found dead in his cell also at Maghaberry was the sixth suicide in 18 months at jails in Northern Ireland.

Mrs McAllister said neither she nor her staff were complacent about deaths in custody.

"There is a will to address this, every death in custody is one too many," she added.

She also described Maghaberry as "the most complex prison in Europe" in terms of the many different groups of prisoners it holds.

Mrs McAllister told UTV: "We need to build a Prison Service that is focused on reducing re-offending so that we can make the proper contribution to the wider reducing re-offending strategy."

The director general said there had been a concentration on physical security but now the service was trying to improve the prison environment with a strategy including greater communication between inmates and warders.

She said this did not mean staff are expected to be prisoners' friends.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
the n.i.o. rule jails in bangor wrote (920 days ago):
does anybody really believe that she will make any difference?she will do as she is told to do by the n.i.o.policy makers.
harry in belfast wrote (920 days ago):
the last man did not stick it for too long, lets see how long she is in post?
Patrick in Lisburn wrote (920 days ago):
I wish Mrs McAllister the best of luck and I hope that she will make a much needed difference in the running of the NIPS which seems to attract negative media covwerage week after week.
Mike in Antrim wrote (920 days ago):
The prison service has left it too late by about 20 years and they know it.They should have been searching visitors and putting carriers through the courts but they didnt. This latest hard line statement by this lady is all about bluffing the general public.
mick in spain wrote (921 days ago):
good idea.... try and keep drugs out of prison? what the same way that has been tried and failed for the past 50 years? the most complex prison in europe? what because of two opposing religious groups? if this is her idea of complex then perhaps she should reconsider the job.
Email address*:    
House Rules:  
Your Comment:  
[All comments are moderated and will not appear immediately. Your name, location and comment will be displayed on this page if your post passes moderation.]
January snow
Tue 13 January 2015
Wed 07 January 2015
Charity on trial
Mon 19 January 2015