Inside news - FRFI 270 June/July 2019

Disastrous prison privatisation ends

The government has announced that HMP Birmingham (also known as Winson Green) will not be returned to private contractor G4S, and will continue to be run by the state.

The prison was put out to tender in 2009 by the Labour government, which – like its Tory predecessors – was ideologically wedded to privatising the punishment machinery. Although, by the time Birmingham was handed to G4S in 2011, there were 13 privately built and run prisons in operation, it was the first state prison to be moved into the private sector.

Already a brutal hate factory with many years of brutalising prisoners behind it, G4S’s attempts to run the prison were spectacularly unsuccessful by anyone’s standards. The years during which it was in charge saw repeated riots, violence and deaths, both self-inflicted and due to accidental drug overdose. Meanwhile, the prison fabric literally fell to pieces, to the extent that in December 2018 the House of Commons Justice Committee grilled G4S custodial and detention services director Jerry Petherick over the complete failure of G4S to deal with the appalling conditions in the prison’s 19th century wings, where every single window was broken.

Same in probation...

In 2014, then Justice Minister Chris Grayling, who is widely known even among his Tory colleagues for being utterly clueless (who else would ban books and cigarettes in prison, and give ferry contracts to companies with no ships?) had tendered out probation services responsible for monitoring everyone under community supervision orders and all but the highest risk released prisoners. The scheme, which involved the creation of regional Community Rehabilitation Companies, was utterly chaotic, and once again the state has no choice but to renationalise it.

State-run prisons also uninhabitable

On 10 May a Dutch court halted a prisoner’s extradition to Britain on the grounds that conditions in the prison he was likely to be moved to breached human rights minimum standards. As we have previously reported, Liverpool has been labelled ‘Britain’s worst prison’, with many cells unfit for habitation, hundreds of unrepaired broken win-dows, filthy toilets, infestations of cockroaches, broken furniture, graffiti, damp and dirt, alongside negligent treatment of prisoners with complex medical and mental health needs. The court cited Bedford and Birmingham prisons, alongside Liverpool as posing a ‘real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment’.


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