A prison in Northern Ireland has been branded the most dangerous in the UK by a government inspector, prompting a local MLA to question the leadership of Justice Minister David Ford.
SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone accused the Alliance minister of not being in control of ‘an undeniable crisis’ at Maghaberry prison.
Almong the matters for grave concern are claims that it is only a matter of time before a member of prison staff is raped by an inmate, and a recent inspection report finding Maghaberry Prison ‘unsafe and unstable’.
Mr McGlone said the crisis facing the prison service demanded robust leadership and has called on Ford to step up to the mark to resolve the range of issues.
“I was told it is literally a matter of time before a member of prison staff is raped by an inmate. It is utterly unacceptable that in 2016 we have a prison service in such a state of chaos.
There aren’t one or two areas that require improvement, we’re talking about pervasive and
endemic issues across the entire service.
“The most important concerns come on the back of the report into conditions at Maghaberry which found the prison has become ‘unsafe and unstable’ and was, in the words of one inspector, the ‘most dangerous prison in the UK’.
“It beggars belief that two and a half months since it was published, the head of the Prison Officer’s Association has even not taken the time to read it.
“Since the report in November, we have seen a decline in service at one of the only parts of the prison to receive positive feedback. The removal of bus services between the visitors centre and the prison poses significant
problems for elderly visitors and those with mobility issues.
“Furthermore there were over 9000 complaints from prisoners about conditions in our prisons the last 11 months alone. This reinforces the systemic failings revealed in the last number of months.
“There is a clear sense that the Minister is not in control. The criminal justice system is in the middle of an undeniable crisis. After six years as Justice Minister, there are now serious questions to be asked about David
Ford’s stewardship of the Justice institutions in Northern Ireland.”