The Office of the Inspector of Prisons, led by Ms Patricia Gilheaney, who was appointed as inspector last year, has a vital role in ensuring effective independent oversight of the prison system. I strongly support the office and recently met the inspector with my officials to discuss a range of issues relating to her office, including resources. Following her appointment in May 2018, the inspector contracted consultants to carry out a review of the functions and arrangements of the office. The report set out an optimal new enhanced structure for her office, its legal powers, the resources needed and other related and important issues.
On additional resources this year, funding has been provided by my Department to contract external expertise to enable the office to review cases of deaths in prisons, and a process is under way to appoint a new office manager. My Department also recently approved the awarding of a contract, following a tender competition, in respect of the development of an inspection framework and a strategic plan for the office. The additional resource requirements set out in the consultants' report could not be considered in the context of spending this year as the Estimates process had been completed. The inspector, however, recently submitted a request for resources, based on the report's recommendations. The request is being analysed and considered in the context of the 2020 Estimates process.
I assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to work constructively with the Inspector of Prisons to ensure the further development and enhancement of her resources and the capacity of the office.