Scheme targets hate crime inmates
Prisoners convicted of hate crimes in Northern Ireland are to receive special tutoring to help prevent reoffending.
There were more than 3,000 incidents of offences like racism and sectarianism last year.
Individuals convicted of hate crimes will be challenged about their attitude and participate in a support programme aimed at reducing the likelihood of reoffending.
The pilot project is the first to tackle sectarianism in this way and will manage offenders while researching the nature and extent of hate crime.
Justice Minister David Ford said: "Hate crime is insidious, and in many cases an unfortunate legacy of our recent past. It can have terrible consequences, for both victim and perpetrator, as well as affecting whole communities.
"It is good to see the Prison Service working with one of our most progressive local charities in this innovative and proactive project to reduce hate crime."
The plan is a partnership between the Prison Service and the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO). It is funded by the European Union's Peace III programme.
Olwen Lyner, chief executive of NIACRO, said hate crime should not be tolerated.
"We believe a strong model of intervention could be very effective in reducing the rate of re-offending in this group of prisoners," she said. "More importantly, we hope the challenge hate crime project will result in fewer victims of hate crime and contribute to a safer society."
The Special EU Programmes Body is delivering the European funding.