Drug rehab unit for Maghaberry is UK first
The UK's first dedicated prisoner rehab unit is to be piloted in Northern Ireland next year, it has been announced.
The 24/7 purpose-built therapeutic unit will be trialled at Maghaberry maximum security prison in Co Antrim.
Justice Minister David Ford said the new facility would adopt a cutting-edge approach to dealing with drug addiction in jails.
"This will be a complete programme regime which will support prisoners to break the cycle of addiction," he said.
"It is the first of its type in the British Isles and demonstrates the innovative approach prison staff are willing to take to deliver change."
The new unit located at Glen House is expected to be up and running by early in the new year. It will cater for 15 inmates who will embark on a 12-week programme of rehabilitation including diet, exercise, education as well as addiction distraction techniques.
The announcement comes after the Prison Service announced a major crackdown on drug abuse.
Mr Ford added: "In June, I highlighted the issue of addiction in our prisons and announced that a new dual approach would be implemented to tackle this issue. The first part of this was the initiation of intelligence-led searching to replace the standard routine search policy that is now in place.
"There is also a Prison Service/PSNI initiative at Maghaberry where they have joined forces to reduce the supply and demand of drugs in the prison."
Last week, 11 prisoners and three visitors at Maghaberry were caught with drugs.
The problem of drug abuse was also investigated in two reports by the Prisoner Ombudsman, who linked the deaths of two prisoners at Maghaberry to the availability of illicit substances and prescription medication.
Mr Ford was updating members of the Stormont Assembly on the progress of prison reform which is halfway through its four-year timetable.
Nine of the 40 recommendations contained within the Prisoner Review Team Report which was led by Dame Anne Owers have been implemented to date.
However, Mr Ford warned that some of the major projects, including the development of a new women's prison, would not be realised until nearer 2015.