Challenges for Hydebank Wood Young Offenders' Centre

Progress at Hydebank Wood YOC had been held back by poor industrial relations and the move of women prisoners from Maghaberry, according to a report published today by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland. 

In their joint report Anne Owers and Kit Chivers say that their unannounced inspection in March 2005 came at a time when industrial action was taking place, so the young men were being kept locked in their cells for longer than usual.  But even allowing for that, they found a number of causes for concern.
Even when the Centre was fully staffed there was not enough purposeful activity – education, training and exercise – for the young men. Half of the young adults had no access to education, and only a quarter could undertake vocational training. Young people were still slopping out, and the so-called night sanitation system did not operate throughout the night.  Punishments in the special supervision unit involved too much confinement to cells and young men held there needed more support and a structured regime.  
On the positive side the young men said that they generally felt safe at Hydebank Wood and there had been no self-inflicted deaths in recent years.  Probation staff were commended for their good work on resettlement at the end of sentences, as was the new visitor centre, managed by NIACRO, and the work on drug and alcohol problems undertaken by another non-governmental organisation, Opportunity Youth.
The inspection revealed three main problems which needed to be addressed.   The first was to ensure that there was sufficient meaningful activity and training for young men at Hydebank Wood.  The second was to develop and support the work of residential staff with the young men.  The third was to ensure that there is active and visible management.
The report contains nine main recommendations and a substantial number of minor ones.  With only two exceptions they have been accepted by the Prison Service and an agreed Action Plan is being published together with the report.
Summing up, the Chief Inspectors said: 
“Hydebank Wood can play a key role in the criminal justice system of Northern Ireland, providing an environment where young adults – the most prolific re-offenders – can be challenged and supported to change.  We have no doubt that staff, managers and the NI Prison Service want to move Hydebank Wood forward.  Our recommendations should assist them in doing that.”