Justice Minister Claire Sugden has attended a Passing Out ceremony for new recruits of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.
Twenty new recruits – 15 male and five female – graduated from the Prison Service College at Hydebank Wood, following an intensive nine week training course. They will start work in Maghaberry Prison next week.
Minister Sugden said it was fitting that one of her first engagements as Justice Minister was to join new Prison Officers at the beginning of their career in the Northern Ireland Prison Service.
She said: “Working in prisons and serving the community can be a fulfilling and honourable career. There will be challenges but there will also be many opportunities to change the lives of those who have made bad decisions and ended up in prison.
“I am confident the new recruits will approach their new roles with professionalism, integrity and determination and by working with prisoners in custody they can help reduce their likelihood of re-offending when they are released.”
Revealing that her father was a prison officer, Minister Sugden said that growing up she was always aware of his pride in working in the Prison Service and serving the community in Northern Ireland.
“I think that is a crucial part of today – service, pride and community. The Prison Service has undergone significant change over the past few years. Its core purpose remains to provide safe, decent and secure prisons, however along with that is the focus on rehabilitation. All of the new recruits who are graduating today are starting a new chapter in their lives and are now an important part of the wider justice family. They now have the opportunity to play their part in helping to build a safer community. That is a very special responsibility.”
The Minister was joined at the ‘Passing Out’ ceremony by Sue McAllister, Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, and family members and friends of the new recruits.
Special awards in memory of former Prison Service members John Bell and Adrian Ismay were presented to the Top Recruit and the Recruit who showed the most pastoral care and desire to help others.