The Ministry of Justice has announced that it will take over the running of HMP Birmingham from G4S after conditions at the prison were labelled as being ‘appalling’
The decision to take over the prison comes after the prison inspector warned that HMP Birmingham had “slipped into crisis” following its most recent inspection where it was discovered that conditions at the prison were, amongst other things, “appalling”.
In particular, the report disclosed that the prison is enduring an epidemic of violence and hygiene conditions are described as being ‘squalid’.
The situation does not bode well in relation to what many see as a push by the Government to try and privatise more and more services associated with the criminal justice sector.
We hear on a regular basis from Police Officers who, for example, are worried about Policing roles and responsibilities being outsourced to private companies.
But then, why would anyone believe that a ‘business model’ aimed at maximising profit would ever work in a sector where MORE spending and MORE investment are needed?
In a letter to the Justice Secretary, Peter Clarke, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, stated that many staff working at the Prison felt genuinely concerned for their own safety after a number of recent violent attacks.
This included an arson attack that destroyed nine private vehicles which were parked in the Prisons staff car park.
The description of what is happening at Her Majesty’s Prison Birmingham would not be out of place in a third-world country where prisoners rule the prison, as opposed to Prison staff.
In his letter to Mr Gauke, the Justice Secretary, Mr Clarke said that: “It was often difficult to find officers, although we did find some asleep during prisoner lock-up periods.
“On more than one occasion, we found groups of staff who had locked themselves in their own offices.
“we were told this was to prevent them, when busy, from being distracted by prisoners – an explanation that was neither plausable nor acceptable”.
Mr Clarke went on to explain that he was “astounded” by the deterioration of the prison since it was last inspected in Feb 2017 and subsequently concluded that “there has clearly been an abject failure of contract management and delivery”.
Officials from the Ministry of Justice state that the action is justified under the terms of its contract with G4S because they have deemed that G4S’ failure to run the prison safely represents a breach of contract.
According to the Justice.Gov.UK website, privately managed prisons were introduced to the UK in the 1990s.
On their site it says:
‘HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons inspects private prisons in the same way as public sector prisons.
‘All private prisons have a ‘Controller’ linking them to the National Offender Management Service, and the governors of private prisons are called ‘Directors’.
‘At present there are 14 private prisons contractually managed by private companies such as Sodexo Justice Services, Serco and G4S Justice Services’.
G4s has allegedly welcomed the move in relation to the Ministry of Justice stepping in to retake control of the Prison.
Recent figures have shown that HMP Birmingham had the largest volumes of assault incidents of all prisons in the 12 months to July 2018 with a total of 1,434 RECORDED incidents.
It is reported that the measures being introduced by the Ministry of Justice include:
- Putting in a new Governor into the Prison
- Drafting 30 officers additional officers to the prison
- Reducing the inmate count at the prison by 300 places whilst ‘improvements’ are made
A statement on the Prison Officers Association website states:
‘The POA National Executive Committee have praised their members at HMP Birmingham today after the Ministry of Justice have taken direct control of the prison after a scathing report by the Prisons Inspector.
‘The POA have consistently campaigned against the Government’s cuts agenda, leaving both staff and prisoners vulnerable from intolerable conditions and violence.
‘Steve Gillan General Secretary of the POA stated;
“I want to pay tribute to our hard working members at HMP Birmingham and across the prison estate in England and Wales.
“This announcement is no reflection on them.
“They have been placed in an unacceptable position by failed Government policies and now once again it will be brave Prison Officers and related grades picking up the pieces. Our members deserve far better”.
‘Mark Fairhurst National Chair of the POA Stated;
“This announcement highlights the need to keep prisons in the public sector.
“Once again, the public sector are sent in to bail out the private sector when they have difficulties.
“I call on all political parties to insist that HMP Birmingham is returned in its entirety back into public ownership.
‘The days of private companies putting profits before staff and prisoner safety must stop.
“This Governments unnecessary privatisation agenda must cease at once.
“It is clear that G4S are driven by profit which has compromised the safety of our members in Birmingham”.
The POA are not surprised by this announcement and now call for the recent announcement on further privatisation to be halted.’
Richard Burgon ( @RichardBurgon ), MP for East Leeds tweeted:
“How many more ‘last chances’ do those taking money to make a mess of our justice system need?
“The Government should cancel its plans to build yet more private prisons.
“We need an urgent independent inquiry into privatisation across the MOJ”.