Northern Ireland

Up to 500 prison officers could be made redundant

Up to 500 prison officers could be made redundant as part of a fundamental reform of the prison service.

A severance package is one of the recommendations in an interim report published by a review team.

Almost 1800 prison officers work in NI prisons - plus just over 400 civilian staff - with fewer than 1600 prisoners to supervise.

The annual cost of keeping a prisoner is £95,000 - more than double the cost in England, Scotland and Wales.

Despite the high costs, a report published today labels the prison service as dysfunctional, demoralised and ineffective.

Dame Anne Owers and her review team say fundamental change is needed, including a redundancy scheme for prison officers.

Justice minister David Ford has accepted the recommendation, and said he now plans to bring forward proposals to enable those staff who wish to leave the prison service to do so.

No details of the numbers involved have been released - but the BBC understands that up to 500 jobs could go.

The process has already started, with a letter sent to all prison officers today setting out the need for change, and confirming that a redundancy scheme will be launched in the autumn.

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