Union says government should halt further prison sell-offs


A halt to any further prison sell-offs and an independent review are urgently required, the PCS says, as the government announces that four more prisons will be handed to private companies.

Of the eight institutions under consideration, Northumberland, and Moorland, Hatfield and Lindholme near Doncaster are to be privatised, while Coldingley, Durham and Onley will remain in the public sector. There was some welcome news that the Wolds, currently run by G4S, will return to public sector management when the contract expires in July.

The union remains concerned about the future of public prisons, as justice minister Chris Grayling has made clear further privatisation was likely and non-custodial functions could be outsourced.

When Birmingham became the first public prison to go to the private sector last year the first act of the new contractor G4S was to announce more than 100 job cuts.

There are already 13 other private prisons in the UK, holding 15% of the prison population. This is a worldwide record, beating even the USA where private prisons account for 9% of prisoners.

This has happened without any public debate or discussion, and today’s announcement was only made in writing by the minister with no debate scheduled for MPs.

The union is therefore calling for an independent review into the privatisation of our prisons – including a thorough examination of the process and financing, and the impact on prisoners, staff, communities and the public – and a moratorium on any further sell-offs until it is completed.

New salary grades were introduced in the prison service earlier this year based on private sector pay rates, with the main justification being to allow in-house bids to compete.

Meanwhile, substantial costs are added to in-house bids to create “a level playing field” with private sector bids.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The privatisation of our prison service ought to be a national scandal and that this has happened without any public debate is shameful.

“It is morally reprehensible that companies are profiting from locking people up and we urgently need an independent review to look at the impact on our communities, staff and prisoners.”

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