26 July 2013

The new Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland Tom McGonigle (centre) is joined by (left to right): Bobby Smyth (Member of the Forum for Families of People in Prison), Linda Moore (University of Ulster), Dave Weir (Director of Services: Families & Children at NIACRO) and Una Convery (University of Ulster).

On 1st July, the Forum for Families of People in Prison held its inaugural meeting in the University of Ulster and invited Tom McGonigle, who assumed the post of Prisoner Ombudsman on 1st June, to attend and meet with families. The event, co-facilitated by NIACRO and the University, was a chance for relatives of people in prison, and for practitioners working in the area, to meet Tom informally, hear his views on his new role and to discuss how families might contribute to his work.

With approximately twenty relatives attending, the lunchtime meeting provided a relaxed environment and NIACRO representatives were pleased to see Tom engage with families in a genuine manner. The families raised issues of concern around prison regimes in Northern Ireland. Tom, who is a Criminal Justice Inspector and former Director of Operations at NIACRO, also explained the role of the Prisoner Ombudsman and gave honest and thoughtful answers, taking the time to deal with each person’s questions and concerns.

Dave Weir, Director of Services: Families & Children at NIACRO, said: “It was great to see Tom engaging with families in this way so early into his term as Prisoner Ombudsman. This shows he understands the importance of involving the families of people in prison every step of the way and recognises the critical role families can play in successful resettlement. We look forward to working with him more over the next three years.”

The Prisoner Ombudsman investigates complaints from people in prison in Northern Ireland and their visitors, as well as deaths in custody.

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Author: rmchristen