Several hundred Prison Service staff in Northern Ireland will lose their jobs next year under a fundamental overhaul, it has been revealed.
The service has been asked to save millions of pounds as part of wider public spending cuts. The move follows a string of critical reports about prisoner safety and industrial relations strife which has demoralised staff.
Director general of the Prison Service Colin McConnell said there would be a staff exit scheme in place by September.
"There is a strong economic driver for this, we are no longer in a position to afford to remain in our current shape and size, within the context of our budget allocation over the next four years," he said.
"The Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) simply cannot afford to stay the way it is."
He added: "Allowing staff to leave NIPS will enable us to move forward with our objectives and priorities."
He said the number departing would be "several hundred".