A DUP MLA has claimed that staffing levels at Magilligan prison mean that there are times when there are as many as 50 prisoners with one member of staff supervising.
DUP MLA Trevor Clarke had been quizzing the Justice Minister about staffing levels in the Northern Ireland Prison Service. He asked Minister David Ford “whether he is satisfied that there are sufficient prison officers working in our prisons, particularly at Magilligan, which I visited with the Committee for Justice?”
The Minister replied: “The Prison Service has satisfied me that there are adequate numbers of staff on duty in all three prison institutions at all times.”
Mr Clarke, however, asked the Minister whether he had “spoken directly to any of the prison officers at Magilligan where, in one wing, there are 50 prisoners with one member of staff looking after them at night?”
Mr Ford said that he was “not aware” that there were as many as 50 prisoners with just one member of staff there to supervise at Magilligan: “I am not aware that that is the position at Magilligan; it is not the way that it has been presented to me. However, we have to be realistic in recognising that, when risk assessments are done on the way in which staff are deployed, sometimes it will be entirely possible that the prisoner:staff ratio will be higher in some units than in others. The reality is that the vast majority of our prisoners are not, in that sense, dangerous, and we need to ensure that we have an appropriate staffing level for the different sorts of prisoners in the different parts of the prison estate so that we maximise the use of resources and do not have unnecessary numbers of prison officers in some places that do not require it, at the expense of other areas where a higher staff:prisoner ratio would be appropriate.”