After being awarded a 15-year contract in 2011, as part of a wider move to bring more competition into the prison service, G4S has been stripped of control over ‘failed’ HMP Birmingham jail (details here). This is the latest crisis of the decades-long move towards privatisation of public services.

Following the first ‘takeover’ for a privatised prison contract, David Gauke, justice secretary, is appointing a new governor and management team on the site and has compelled G4S to take on 30 extra staff to instigate various improvements.

300 of HMP Birmingham’s 1,330 inmates will also be moved to other jails

Ministers said that G4S, which had failed to run the prison safely, would continue to run the facility under the direct control of the Ministry of Justice for at least the next six months.

This is government’s first ‘step-in process’.

Though G4S also runs HMP Altcourse, HMP Parc, HMP Ryehill and HMP Oakwood, all of which are “performing well” according to the government, shares in G4S dropped 2.5% after the government assumed control of the prison. Other problems include:

  • the government’s 2003 installation of a new governor at HMP Ashfield, run by Premier Prison Services;
  • the criminal activity of some Serco staff at the Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre;
  • problems with Capita’s NHS back-office functions for primary care providers;
  • in 2016 ministers took over the running of Medway, a youth custody centre, where a G4S contract was coming to an end;
  • construction and public services company Carillion collapsed in January
  • and the Stagecoach and Virgin Trains East Coast mainline service was recently nationalised.

The Financial Times reported that violence, drugs, suicide and self-harm, squalor and poor access to education were once again “prominent themes” in jails during the year to the end of March. in July, Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons for England and Wales, in a highly critical annual report, said that conditions in some UK prisons are “disgraceful” and “should not be accepted in 21st-century Britain”.

Education, health, prisons, transport: in how many other sectors is the private sector failing?

 

 

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