Civilians recruited to take over NI prison jobs

 

Civilian staff are being recruited to work at Northern Ireland's top securityjail in jobs currently carried out by prison officers, it was revealed today.

The Prison Service in Northern Ireland is recruiting more than 150 civilianstaff to help it re-introduce the separation of loyalist and republicanprisoners in Maghaberry Prison.

The civilian staff will take over duties such as guarding the main gates ofthe Co Antrim prison, the searching of prisoners' relatives making visits anddriving inmates on visits.

The Prison Service insisted that the move was not privatisation, but saidcivilians, initially temporary staff, would take over from prison officers jobsthat "don't require their special skills".

Private security firms who currently supply the staff who replaced policeofficers doing many jobs at Northern Ireland courts are being asked to providethe staff.

The Prison Service said they had to find an extra £7 million to fund theseparation of the rival groups.

A spokesman said : "We will require more prison officers to look after thetwo houses which will house the separated prisoners. We are putting extraofficers in because we don't want a return to the Maze-style structures wherethe paramilitaries had free association and virtually ran their H-Blocks."

"What we are proposing is that we will require non-prison officers to do jobswhere there is little or no contact with prisoners."

PA