More Work Needed To Tackle Mental Health At Young Offenders Centre

More work is needed to tackle mental health issues and drug and alcohol dependency at Hydebank Wood College, a young offenders centre, according to the latest inspection.

Significant concerns remained around the availability of illicit drugs and new psychoactive substances, which mimic the effects of illegal drugs within Hydebank and women's prison Ash College.

Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, said: "Over half of the young men we spoke to in Hydebank Wood Secure College reported having mental health difficulties and around double the number of young men indicated they had drug of alcohol dependency issues compared to England and Wales," said the Chief Inspector of Prisons in England and Wales.

"Within Ash House many of the women reported experiencing mental health issues, high levels of self-harming behaviour and backgrounds of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse. We were concerned that given the problems with the female prison population and the high level of young men reporting mental health issues, mental health provision needed to be much better. In some cases, their needs would be best met within a mental health or hospital setting, rather than within the Hydebank Wood site."

However, inspectors also commended the Northern Ireland Prison Service for delivering "significant improvements in outcomes".

Mr McGuigan continued: "In contrast with the concerning findings highlighted in 2013, Inspectors found there was a clear focus on providing enhanced educational and learning opportunities on the site. This vision centered on helping both young men and women prisoners break the cycle of reoffending and offering assistance in the process of rehabilitation to help offenders live a more purposeful, law-abiding life on release.
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"Relationships between staff and prisoners had moved on considerably since our last inspection. Engagement was found to be consistently positive and in some cases was outstanding, with most staff adopting a caring, supportive approach and an interest in the welfare of young men and women in their care.

"While further work was required to increase the range of accredited qualifications and opportunities for higher levels of achievement, prison management had sensibly extended these opportunities to include the women held in Ash House.

"Gaining access to this provision has meant women need to move more freely around the Hydebank Wood campus. While this is not without risks, managers have sought to take steps to manage this movement and Inspectors would encourage them to keep these risks under constant review.

"Overall these were two encouraging inspections. While the mixing of young men and women on the Hydebank Wood site will continue to present challenges until a new dedicated women's prison for Northern Ireland is established, the improvements made at the Hydebank Wood campus have the potential to meaningfully improve outcomes and transform the experience of the young men and women held there."

Justive Minister Claire Sugden said: "The positive results of this latest inspection are testament to the work of all the staff at Hydebank Wood to transform the centre into the first secure college in the UK.

"By placing education at the centre of its work, staff encourage people in custody to address their offending behaviour and help prepare them to play a constructive role when they return to the community.

"I commend the work of the Governor and his team, as well as the many partners who have helped to develop a progressive custodial establishment which plays its part in building a safer community in Northern Ireland.

"We must build upon this good work and meet the challenges ahead.

"The report also highlights where further progress is needed, in particular on misuse of drugs and in supporting people with mental health issues. While both areas reflect similar problems in the wider community, the Prison Service will continue to play its part in working to support people in custody."


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