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Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 15:59 GMT
Prison officers apply to leave service

The Maze is due to close at the end of the year The Maze is due to close at the end of the year


Prison officers are applying in their hundreds to take redundancy from Northern Ireland's jails.

According to the Northern Ireland Office, its scheme to shed 1,100 officers by next year because of the planned closure of the top security Maze Prison was substantially over subscribed.

Applications for redundancy from more than 900 officers for 750 places in the final phase of cuts are currently being studied.

The Maze is due to shut at the end of this year and with the reduction of inmates through the early release scheme set in place in the Good Friday Agreement some 300 officers have already gone.

It is anticipated the other 750 will go by the spring of next year.

A Northern Ireland Office prisons' spokesman, confirming the number of applications, said: "Yes it has been oversubscribed, but that reflects more the generous nature of the package rather than a great fall in morale."

He said: "Prison officers have come to realise that this will never be repeated."

Compensation

Compensation is being paid to those who go.

A prison officer on the basic grade, aged 50 and with 30 years service will get a lump sum of 107,000 plus an index-linked pension of 13,500.

The most junior grade governor, aged 52 and also with 30 years service will get 120,000 lump sum and 14,000 a year.

The redundancy package is not just on offer to warders in the Maze.

It is open to the whole service and some officers in the Maze who want to go are likely to find their application turned down and a transfer to another prison offered.

The Maze can accommodate almost 1,000 prisoners but the present prison population is down to 140 and due to drop close to nil when the last terrorist prisoners in the early release scheme walk free in July.

It has been estimated the multi-million pound costs of the redundancy package will be recouped by the government within three years because of the savings made by the closure of the Maze.

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See also:
10 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
Terrorist interrogation centre to close
22 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
Maze prison almost empty for Christmas

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