Impressive progress made in implementing prison Care and Supervision Unit report recommendations

CJI Chief Inspector Jacqui Durkin has welcomed progress made by the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS), South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) and Belfast Metropolitan College (Belfast Met) to implement recommendations for improvement made following an in-depth review of the operation of prison Care and Supervision Units (CSUs).

Inspectors made three strategic and 11 operational recommendations to improve governance, oversight and outcomes for prisoners held in CSUs in February 2022 after carrying out a comprehensive review at each prison facility.
“This Follow-Up Review demonstrates what can be achieved when leaders commit to implementing recommendations and improving services to achieve better outcomes,” said Ms Durkin.
“The findings of the CSU Review were challenging for the NIPS when the review report was published 18 months ago, however Inspectors found action taken by the NIPS, SEHSCT, Belfast Met and North West Regional College to implement the recommendations was impressive,” she said.
Inspectors found that three strategic and eight operational recommendations had either been fully or partially achieved when they returned to the CSUs in early 2023.  A further three operational recommendations were assessed as not achieved, however Inspectors found evidence work was ongoing to progress one of the outstanding recommendations.
“In February 2022, I gave a commitment to maintain a focus on the issues we identified, including the lack of appropriate evidence to provide satisfactory assurance that prisoners held in Northern Ireland’s CSUs experienced a regime that met required minimum standards around their access to meaningful human contact, time out of cell, health care and purposeful activity, like learning, skills and physical activity. The Follow-Up Review we have published today delivers on that commitment and the work undertaken has led to improved governance and oversight arrangements and better access to purposeful activity for men and women held in the CSUs,” said Ms Durkin.
“The introduction of a Framework for the operation of CSUs provides clear messages about why monitoring segregation, as well as transparency and consistent governance arrangements, are vital in discharging human rights obligations.  
“An innovative IT solution has also been implemented to monitor time out of cell, prisoner engagement and purposeful activity, which can prompt action to safeguard prisoners against being held in conditions which amount to solitary confinement.  We believe the data collected through this technology can be used to develop further improvements in service delivery and oversight arrangements,” she said.
Ms Durkin said that as a result of increased training and development opportunities, staff working in CSUs reported feeling better equipped and supported in their role.
“While we recognise the significant positive progress that has been made to implement recommendations, there is still work to be done by everyone involved to sustain the current commitment to deliver improvement, particularly around information sharing and the services provided to support prisoners experiencing personality disorders,” said the Chief Inspector.
“I remain concerned not only for these vulnerable men and women with very complex needs but also for the staff who look after them,” she said.
Ms Durkin said Inspectors were satisfied that a further Follow-Up Review was not required, and that future assessment of progress will be included within future prison inspections.