Privatised prisons perform badly

Published on Friday, January 18, 2013 - 11:06


LETTERS From Bruce Overton, Cowes:

THE chequered history of IW jails has reached a new milestone with the pending closure of Camp Hill (CP, 11-01-13).

The much lauded amalgamation of our three jails into a "prison cluster" appears to be cracking at the seams.

Our prisons are, to many people, individual establishments with their own history and identity.

Camp Hill was built in 1912, under instructions from the then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, with much of the labour coming from convicts at Parkhurst Prison. Parkhurst came into being some 74 years before Camp Hill, but, so far, remains untouched.

Having read the statement from Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Justice, I am convinced the prison cat is better placed to know how to run our jails.

While conceding some of our ancient prisons, such as Shepton Mallet, Gloucester and Shrewsbury are not fit for purpose, there are questions to be asked about the decision to close Camp Hill.

Grayling speaks about old, inefficient jails, 18th century leviathans.

Camp Hill was built in the 20th century. It was added to in the 1970s, with the construction of two modern wings.

I do fear for the future of our two other prisons.

Camp Hill POA official, Richard Knox stated "once they take one Island jail, I suspect the rest will follow".

Unfortunately, he may be right. The ministerial statement mentions securing best value for money, lower unit and overall cost, reducing re-offending rates, effective education and training, and the needs of the offender.

Grayling does not mention future prison building and increased capacity of existing jails will come from the private sector. Private prisons! Godexo, Serco and G4s. We all remember G4s from its lacklustre performance at providing security for the Olympics.

Since first envisaged by the Tories in the early 1990s, private firms have proved to be ineffectual in the running of some of our jails. In 2008, a report showed most privately managed prisons scored badly on security and maintaining order and control.

Who comes to the rescue of low-paid, under-trained and under-resourced private prison custody officers when their prisoners riot? Specially trained officers from the public service, of course!

At least three private prisons have been, or will be, returned to be publicly run, due to the inability of private security companies to run a professional organisation.

So, is it appropriate for private businesses to profit out of incarceration? Some would suggest this is morally repulsive.

The government will continue in its mission to rip the heart out of Her Majesty’s prison service, because it is cheaper to privatise.

This will be done at the expense of professional and experienced officers, and, close to home, our local economy.

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