24/04/2009

Life Sentence Release Report Welcomed

Existing procedures to release prisoners serving life sentences could be put under great strain if the number of such cases rise, a report has found.

The Criminal Justice Inspectorate (CJI) Report on the Transition of Community Arrangements for Life Sentence Prisoners in Northern Ireland has been welcomed.

Prisons' Minister Paul Goggins (pictured) commissioned an independent review into the current Prison Service arrangements for assessing and testing life sentence prisoners prior to release.

Now he has welcomed the CJI Review, just published, which considers how life sentence prisoners are risk assessed and managed before release. It assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the current system and outlines a number of recommendations for improvement.

"The management of life sentence prisoners is a vital component of the work carried out by the Prison Service and it is important that our methods of preparing prisoners for release meet the highest standards and offer prisoners opportunities for rehabilitation, whilst safeguarding public protection and preventing re-offending.
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"I will carefully consider the report's recommendations for improving the present system," he said.

Meanwhile, Robin Masefield, Director of the Northern Ireland Prison Service also welcomed the report, and added: "This report offers a very helpful independent critique of the current system. It is reassuring to note that the report confirms that overall risk assessment and management of life sentence prisoners in Northern Ireland compares favourably with the arrangements in place in other jurisdictions and places an appropriate focus on the needs of victims.

"We are of course aware of the current pressures on the existing arrangements for the management of life sentenced prisoners and have taken steps to address these in the short term.

"However our intention is that these arrangements will in due course be brought under the operation and structure of the new Offender Management Group, which we are confident will result in a more sustainable system.

"NIPS is of course mindful of its responsibilities towards both life sentence prisoners and to the wider society and I welcome the recommendations for enhanced engagement with other stakeholders in order that we might strengthen and enhance the existing system."

(BMcC/JM)

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