Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Prison Privateers Are The Problem

Amid calls to make Liz Truss work a 12-hour shift in Pentonville (but would that not be cruel and unusual punishment of the inmates?), Conrad Landin writes:

Privatisation has led to worse conditions at Bedford Prison, according to a report by the riot-hit jail’s independent monitoring board issued yesterday. 

The board said the privatisation of maintenance and prisoner resettlement had led to “worse outcomes for prisoners” and a reduction of staff. 

It said it was “laughable” for Bedford to be designated a resettlement prison given the meagre resources available. 

Resettlement at Bedford has been taken over by outsourcing giant Sodexo — criticised in 2013 for its “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of a female prisoner at HMP Bronzefield. 

The jail has outsourced its works contract to building firm Carillion, one of the companies forced to apologise and pay out compensation for its role in the blacklisting scandal. 

Earlier this month 200 prisoners at Bedford rioted in protest at lockdowns blamed on staff shortages. 

The monitoring board reported low morale among guards and blasted Whitehall for budget cuts and the cancellation of refurbishments. 

Howard League for Penal Reform campaigns director Andrew Neilson said:

“Bedford is unsafe, grossly overcrowded and understaffed.

“Sadly these conditions are replicated in prisons up and down the country. 

“The government has pledged more resources, but it remains to be seen how quickly things can improve on the prison landings. 

“The levels of deaths and violence are such that it will take more than just bodies in uniform to turn things around. 

“We also need to take a hard look at who we are sending to prison and what the government can do to better manage the numbers of prisoners being held in these failing institutions.”

Justice Secretary Liz Truss has promised 2,500 new prison officers nationwide — but unions say this will barely compensate for the reductions of recent years.

Ministers faced further embarrassment after three tattooed inmates did a runner from HMP Leyhill open prison in Gloucestershire on Sunday afternoon.

One was captured in Bristol yesterday. Labour shadow justice minister Yasmin Qureshi said:

“It would appear prison breaks are becoming a weekly occurrence under this Tory government.

“Questions will be asked about why three men described as a risk to the public were being held in open conditions.

“Rather than simply publishing a White Paper, people will want to know what the Tories are doing right now to deal with the mess they have created.” 

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Public protection is our top priority … We are working closely with the police and are urgently investigating this incident.”

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