Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Thursday, 19 April 2012 16:48 UK

Justice Committee

The leader of the Prison Officers' Association has described the reform of the prison service as "a mess", on 19 April 2012.

Finlay Spratt told the justice committee that the Strategic Efficiency and Effectiveness programme (SEE) "has dismantled the prison service".

Mr Spratt added that it was "an English answer to an Irish problem".

He was critical of the Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS), Colin McConnell.

Mr McConnell is leaving Northern Ireland to take up a post in Scotland.

Mr Spratt said he had never had a meeting with Mr McConnell.

The DUP's Sydney Anderson asked about the situation at Maghaberry Prison, where dissident republican prisoners have been on a "dirty protest".

Mr Spratt replied that it was a matter for government, but "it's not very nice for the staff who have to work in those conditions".

Referring to the pay and conditions for the new custody officers who are replacing prison officers, Mr Spratt said, "the money that's being offered for the prison officers of the future. I think that's a disgrace".

He said their maximum pay would be £27,000

Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney, who is a former republican hunger striker, complimented Mr Spratt on his use of the term "English solution for an Irish problem".

Mr McCartney said the Prison Officers' Association had been part of the problem.

He said the prisons were overstaffed and the officers were overpaid.

Mr Spratt said this was not so, but he agreed there was a need for reform.

"The world's moving on and we have to look at new ways of doing things," he said.

Sinn Fein's Jennifer McCann asked about strip-searching.

Mr Spratt expressed his support for new technology that would remove the need for strip-searching.

"I, as a prison officer, don't want to go through this process of stripping anyone," he said.

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