A new detention unit for extremely violent prisoners, the first of its kind in the country, has been opened.

The National Violence Reduction Unit consists of cells with specialised security measures to hold the most dangerous inmates in the prison system.

The unit is based in the Midlands Prison but will take in prisoners from all over the country.

The Prison Service says the unit will reduce the number and severity of attacks on inmates and staff and make communities safer when these inmates are released.

Violence in prisons and the dangers posed to staff and other inmates by particularly violent  inmates has been a cause of concern for years - there were over 400 recorded prisoner on prisoner attacks and over a hundred attacks by prisoners on prison officers last year - a figure which has continued to rise for the past three years

Today the Prison Service today opened the first unit of its kind in this country to deal with extremely violent and disruptive prisoners. The violence moderation unit has 10  cells with special security features such as double doors, cameras and specially trained prison officers.

It is jointly run by a prison governor and a senior psychologist and the inmates will undergo a varied programme to address their violent behaviour which includes counselling therapy and life skills such as cooking.

The most dangerous inmates in the prison system will be transferred there from every other prison but the prison service says out of the total of 3,900 prisoners in custody, only five are to be moved there. 

There are at least 17 gangs operating in the prison system and feuding gang members have to be separated but the Prison Service says the unit will not cater for criminal gang members.

The Prison Service says the unit has been established to reduce the risk extremely violent inmates pose to staff and other inmates and to ensure these people pose a less serious risk to the community when they have served their sentences and are released.