Public protection must be the priority in management of life prisoners

“Protection of the public must be at the forefront of any decision to release life sentence prisoners.  It is vital that they are subject to thorough assessment and testing before they can be considered for release as they have been convicted of the most serious offences,” said Deputy Chief Inspector, Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, Brendan McGuigan.

Published today, 6th July, the report, ‘Management of life and indeterminate sentence prisoners in Northern Ireland’ found that life sentence prisoners are being well managed in Northern Ireland, both in prison and while under supervision in the community, though there are key areas that require improvement to ensure public protection and confidence in the criminal justice system.
“Since our inspection in 2009, we have found that significant progress has been made in the management of indeterminate sentenced prisoners.  The Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) and the Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland have developed comprehensive rules and standards to guide Probation Officers and Parole Commissioners in the detail of their work.  In addition, the Parole Commissioner’s administration and contact with criminal justice agencies have improved, which has led to better case management.”
The inspection examined progress in implementing the recommendations of CJI’s 2009 review of how life prisoners are prepared for release.
The inspection also found that life licensees were being carefully supervised in the community by the PBNI and that the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) had improved their response in several respects. These included provision of a dedicated lifer house at Maghaberry Prison and better arrangements for indeterminate sentence prisoners to progress and regress within the prison system.
The report makes three strategic recommendations for improvement, namely for the NIPS and others to urgently establish a new step-down facility for lifers; to reconfigure the respective roles of the PBNI and the NIPS psychology services; and to improve delivery of Offending Behaviour Programmes (OBPs) in the prisons.