Governors at Maghaberry Prison have been scattered to work in various parts of the jail as part of a major shake up.
New controlling governor Steve Rodford has sent senior staff to offices in residential houses, the special segregation unit and other key locations at the jail so they can be on top of their jobs.
The directive means that some of the most senior figures in the Prison Service will be rubbing shoulders with prisoners on a daily basis.
The former governor of Whitemoor Prison, who was parachuted into Maghaberry last month to restore its tarnished reputation, dispatched his most senior staff to key parts of the jail last week as part of his plan to address serious shortcomings.
The governor grade officers, who each had offices in the prison’s administration block, were told early last week of the decision.
It means that the governors will now spend their time in daily contact with republican and loyalist paramilitary elements, Chinese and east European drug gang members and other criminals.
The Prison Service refused to comment on the new hands-on arrangement but staff at the jail say that Mr Rodford’s announcement came as a shock to the system.
“For decades governors have all been based in the administration block at Maghaberrry far away from the bowels of the jail. Mr Rodford has now basically told them to get out and about the jail, find out what is going on and make it better and more efficient,” one senior officer said.
The prison was described as one of the worst in the UK by prison watchdogs who described it as one of the most expensive to run and one of the worst three in terms of safety arrangements.