A quarter of new prison officers have quit since 2012, it has emerged, amid claims that their massively reduced pay is unfair recompense for the difficulties of the job.
Of 411 new officers who joined the Prison Service since 2012, 99 have already gone.
The Prison Service has had an overwhelmingly Protestant make-up – at present only around 12 per cent of prison officers are Roman Catholic – and a major aim of the reforms had been to attract more Catholics to the service.
Finlay Spratt, chairman of the Prison Officers’ Association, said that the “dominant” reason for the exodus was the level of pay, which has fallen from £38,000 to £18,000 for new entrants.
Mr Spratt said that other major factors were the staffing levels – which he said sometimes sees two female prison officers patrolling a landing with 50 prisoners – and the threat from dissident republicans.
In 2012, dissident republicans murdered prison officer David Black.
Mr Spratt said that many of those who had left had gone to the PSNI. And he said officers were particularly angry that their “risk allowance” is £2,000 a year, while PSNI officers receive £3,000.
Mr Spratt said he accepted that we are in a time of austerity, but that it is unfair to expect a prison officer to risk their lives for £18,000 a year.