20/03/2019

UUP Call For End To Separated Prison Regime

The Ulster Unionist Party's Justice Spokesperson, Doug Beattie MC MLA, has repeated his call for an end to the separated regime for terrorist/paramilitary inmates in Northern Ireland's prisons.   

It comes after the Department of Justice launched a report by the B9 Review Team on Education and Training Opportunities for prisoners in the Separated Regime in Northern Ireland.

Mr Beattie said the report is merely a bureaucratic response that fails to address the real issue- "the continued existence of a separate regime for parliamentary/terrorist prisoners".

"There are no political prisoners. What we have are organised crime gangs who use violence, intimidation and murder to impose their will on communities. Anyone in the separated regime is there because they are a member of a violent criminal group," the Upper Bann MLA commented.

"These people have no intention of reintegrating into society or changing their behaviour. If they did, they would leave separated wings and go into the normal general prison population.

"What is the point of pandering to these people and spending a fortune to accommodate a relatively small number of people in a separated regime, giving them a special status? The bottom line is that they should not be permitted to dictate the type of prison system we have. It cannot be justified- neither morally nor economically- and we as a society should not meekly accept this.

"It is time we cut out the jargon and the obsession with how we train Prison staff. They are not responsible for the existence of organised crime gangs. This is about showing organised violent criminal gangs that they will not be allowed to dictate how we as a society run our prisons.
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"What we need is a plan to end the separated regime."

The DoJ review team engaged with a wide range of stakeholders in the issue, including the Northern Ireland Prison Service, senior staff at Maghaberry prison, people serving sentences in separated conditions, and Belfast MET, which is responsible for the provision of Learning and Skills in Maghaberry and Hydebank Wood College.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Review Team Chair Catherine Bell said: "I want to thank all who engaged with us in this important work. Working and living in separated accommodation is difficult, and we do not under-estimate the challenges that involves. While mindful of that, our role was to review the provision of constructive activity in this area. 

"We strongly believe that every prisoner, regardless of their offence, should have equitable access to activities, including education and professional and technical training. This report reflects that and makes a number of recommendations which, if implemented, will deliver better outcomes for separated prisoners."

Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service Ronnie Armour welcomed the report. He said: "I want to thank Catherine and the team for producing a comprehensive report with recommendations on the future provision of education and training opportunities for people in separated accommodation.

"The team acknowledges that working in separated conditions can be challenging and it is important that we take time to reflect on the Report findings and recommendations. As the Prison Service cannot deliver this alone, we will want to engage with other government departments, educational partners and those in the voluntary and community sector."



(JG/CM)


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