Justice Minister Claire Sugden has attended a Passing Out ceremony for new recruits of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.
Twenty new recruits, 15 male and five female, graduated from the Prison Service College at Hydebank Wood, following an intensive nine week training course.
They will start work in Maghaberry Prison next week. A further 19 students graduated the following day.
They will start work in Maghaberry Prison this week.
Minister Sugden, from Coleraine, said it was fitting that one of her first engagements as Justice Minister was to join new Prison Officers at the beginning of their career in the Northern Ireland Prison Service.
She said: “Working in prisons and serving the community can be a fulfilling and honourable career.
“There will be challenges but there will also be many opportunities to change the lives of those who have made poor decisions and ended up in prison.
“I am confident the new recruits will approach their new roles with professionalism, integrity and determination and by working with prisoners in custody they can help reduce their likelihood of re-offending when they are released.”
Minister Sugden’s father was a prison officer and she spoke about how growing up she was always aware of his pride in working in the Prison Service and serving the community in Northern Ireland.
She said: “I think that is a crucial part of today – service, pride and community.
“The Prison Service has undergone significant change over the past few years.
“Its core purpose remains to provide safe, decent and secure prisons, however along with that is the focus on rehabilitation.
“All of the new recruits who are graduating today are starting a new chapter in their lives and are now an important part of the wider justice family,” added the Minister.