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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

January 26, 2005: Who Profits From Private Punishment?

A new report from the Prison Reform Trust entitled Private Punishment: Who Profits? calls for an open and vigorous debate about the role of the private sector in running prisons. The UK operates the most privatised prison system in Europe. There are currently ten private prisons in England and Wales with a further private prison, HMP Peterborough, due to open in March. There are over seven thousand adults and young offenders held in ten private prisons in England and Wales, just under ten per cent of the prison population.

With government planning to extend the scope of competition, the report argues that there is a need to reassess the merits of prison privatisation and the ethics of large companies profiting from the incarceration of thousands of people.

The report acknowledges that private sector innovation has, in some cases, improved regimes but it raises questions about efficiency savings and the need for private companies to achieve economies of scale.

Unpublished figures show that the performance of private prisons against key targets is mixed with many failing to meet targets on serious assaults, drugs and purposeful activity. Whilst there are some private prisons that are performing very well others are experiencing difficulties. Overall the pay and conditions for staff in private prisons are inferior to those in public prisons and staff turnover is higher.

At a time of record prison numbers and chronic overcrowding the report says that there is a need to question a system where companies have a vested interest in keeping the prison population as high as possible.

The report raises concerns about the lack of accountability of private companies with Parliament and the public unable to openly scrutinise the contracts handed out to prison operators.

It also questions the Government’s plans to transfer to directors of private prisons additional powers concerning the segregation, control and punishment of prisoners. The report also looks at the profits, and the windfall gains from the refinancing of PFI loans, made by the four private companies that operate prisons in England and Wales.

Prison Reform Trust Director Juliet Lyon commented

"Even those who believe that ethical or moral considerations about prison privatisation are misplaced or outdated should surely stop and think about the impact of prison privatisation on criminal justice policy and the treatment of offenders. Is it sensible, without public and parliamentary debate, to develop competition which could produce innovative and cost-effective practice but could equally drive down standards and reduce prison safety? Could efforts to re-balance the criminal justice system and reform prisons be hindered, or knocked off course, by the development of vested interests and economies of scale leading to large establishments miles from prisoners’ homes rather than smaller community prisons that would aid resettlement?"

Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby, Bishop of Worcester and Bishop to HM Prisons, added:

“What the Prison Reform Trust is asking is: are there some specific concerns, beyond the general debate about privatisation, that apply when prisons are involved? If numbers in prisons need to be reduced – as most agree – is it helpful to create an interest in their growth among companies and their shareholders? Are there some real conflicts of interest which we are likely to have to address: for instance will judges and jurors have to be vetted to ensure that they do not have an interest in sending more people to prison? More generally, if prisons become part of the ‘commercial sector’, do those running them have an interest in reducing regimes or staffing levels in ways that militate against the restorative aims of imprisonment?"

"Even if particular prisons – the majority – remain in the public sector, does ‘contestability’ mean that the ethos of the whole service is actually dictated by the aims of the private sector? Or does the whole service benefit by the presence of private ‘providers’?"