Page last updated at 19:38 GMT, Monday, 14 November 2011

Prison review team report

Unionists have described the possibility of changes to prison service emblems as "totally unacceptable", on 14 November 2011.

TUV member Jim Allister said many in the unionist community would be appalled by the removal of the crown from the badge or the title "Her Majesty's Prison", and Jim Wells of the DUP said such changes would be totally unacceptable.

Justice minister David Ford told the assembly that the Prison Service would have to consider changes to emblems if it was serious about fundamental reform.

The issue emerged towards the end of a debate on the prison review team's final report.

Sinn Fein's Sean Lynch proposed the motion and called for "a complete new approach" to prison reform.

Mr Lynch said Dame Anne Owers' review was just the latest in a series of reviews whose common view was that "the prison service is unfit for purpose".

Paul Givan spoke for the DUP amendment calling for an immediate public consultation on the report.

Mr Givan declared a personal interest as members of his family worked for the Prison Service.

He described the members of Anne Owers' team as "all very well-meaning individuals".

Mr Givan said that most people thought prison did not work, and called for a deterrent approach.

Alban Maginness moved the SDLP amendment calling for the implementation of the report to begin without delay and to be completed within 18 months.

He criticised Mr Givan's "Porridge caricature" of prison.

Mr Maginness called for "outside people" to be brought into Hydebank Wood young offenders centre to provide educational and other activities so that young were not left "locked down" or watching television.

Basil McCrea spoke for the Ulster Unionist Party.

He noted that the Owers report was definitely on the "liberal side of the agenda".

"We do have to convince the people of Northern Ireland that these proposals are the best for all of those concerned," he said.

Mr McCrea added that he was particularly concerned about the views of the victims of crime.

Justice minister David Ford spoke in favour of the report's emphasis on rehabilitation.

The minister rejected the DUP's amendment calling for public consultation.

"Dame Anne and her team have already consulted widely, " he commented, adding that further delay would be damaging.

Both amendments were defeated and the Sinn Fein motion was passed by 84 votes to 45.

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