Collaborative approach needed to tackling drugs in prisons: Bunting

DUP East Belfast MLA and Chair of the Assembly’s Justice Committee Joanne Bunting has called for a more collaborative approach to tackling the supply of illicit drugs to Northern Ireland’s prisons.

By Joanne Bunting MLA

Belfast East

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Responding to the findings of an independent review of progress at Magilligan, which was published by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) on Thursday, Ms Bunting said:

‘‘While there a clear need to ramp up efforts to disrupt both supply and demand for drugs within our prison population, responsibility for delivering better outcomes should not rest solely on the shoulders of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) provides all prison health care services locally and this report was critical of ‘‘gaps’’ in communication and collaboration between NIPS and the Trust. It is crucial that those issues are addressed as a priority.

I understand that in the past there has been a lack of available HSC staff to supervise the allocation of medicines. Given the need for patient confidentiality there are also limitations on what information prison staff receive and when they receive it. All of this places NIPS in an extremely difficult position as those on the frontline either lack the resources, training or powers to tackle the diversion of medicines at source.

Ultimately we need to see a joined-up approach to addressing this harm so prisoners with or without pre-existing substance addictions are better protected whilst serving their sentences. This requires buy-in from all health and justice partners as well as adequate resources.

If that whole system approach is not in place, then these concerns will never be adequately addressed. There is now an onus on the Minister of Justice to get to grips with this system, provide oversight and ensure that all stakeholders pull in the same direction going forward.’’

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