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COMMENDEE 2013-14: Senior Officer: for contributions to victim/offender mediation and conflict resolution in prison.

Developing a strategy to promote restorative practice within HM Prison and YOC Hydebank Wood earned Senior Officer Niall Denvir his Butler Trust Commendation.

Having been employed in the Northern Ireland Prison Service for 28 years, Niall had experience of working with all categories of prisoners, both sentenced and in remand, when he completed a Diploma in Restorative Practice. His strategy on restorative practice was a novel concept in the prison, and initially greeted with scepticism. But through engaging with inmates and victims, both in the community and in custodial settings, and networking with the local Youth Justice Agency, he got the process underway.

Niall’s excellent communication skills have been central to his success, according to colleagues. An inmate who had taken part in the restorative justice mediation process credited his ‘compassion, warmth, patience and gentleness’ with helping to achieve a ‘peace and understanding’ between herself and her victim that was assumed to be impossible. ‘This peace and understanding between us has not only benefited us, it has had a major and positive impact on our families, friends, and also in the wider community,’ she said.

This case was among the many very serious offences benefiting from this powerful intervention. Conflict resolution intervention has also been used to great effect in reducing the number of inmate on inmate assaults, resulting in a safer environment for both inmates and staff.

Niall has further used his talents as a mentor and coach to help other staff complete the restorative practice qualification, allowing the strategy to spread wider.

The establishment’s Personnel Governor, Richard Hedley, commented that alongside the assisted healing and potential closure for the victim, inmates learn a much better alternative to physical violence – a re-education that can be replicated on release into the community, reducing the risk of recidivism. ‘This is a living process with the potential to repair shattered lives,’ he said.


For more information: contact HMYOC Hydebank Wood

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