UK: Prison officers declare ‘major victory’ after government announces Birmingham prison will return to public ownership

by Marcus Barnett

Morning Star | April 02, 2019

PRISON officers declared a “major” victory today after the government announced that Birmingham prison will be returned to public ownership permanently.

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart has said that the West Midlands jail will be returned to state control after security giant G4S was given a 15-year contract in 2011.

However, consistent allegations about inhumane treatment of prisoners and poor facilities persisted.

In August last year Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) began administering the prison on a six-month contract after chief prison inspector Peter Clarke labelled it as being “in a state of crisis” and the “worst prison” he had ever come across.

This was extended in February so that HMPPS would continue to run the service until the end of this summer.

The service has now agreed to a settlement where G4S will hand over all control and will be paying £9.9 million to cover the cost of the “step-in process.”

All staff will transfer to public-sector contracts on July 1 and prison governor Paul Newton will remain at the post to oversee the transition.

Mr Stewart said: “I am confident that HMP Birmingham has made good progress since the ‘step-in’ but to build on this, the prison needs stability and continuity.

“That is why we have mutually agreed with G4S that the public sector is better placed to drive the long-term improvements required and the contract will end.”

POA national chair Mark Fairhurst said: “The announcement today that HMP Birmingham is to be returned where it rightfully belongs, within the public-sector prison service, heralds a success for the POA and its membership.

“We have campaigned tirelessly since it was wrongly privatised in 2011 to have it returned to the state.

“The obsession this Tory government has to outsource and privatise public sector work must cease.

“It is obvious that when you put profits above safety you sow the seeds of disorder, mismanagement, cover-ups and misery.

“We now urge the government to listen to the POA and abandon its mixed-market dogma by ensuring all new builds remain in the public sector which ensures safety, order, control, rehabilitation and accountability.”

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: “Labour has repeatedly warned that the Tories’ ideological obsession with running prisons for private profit is dangerously flawed.

“This is a necessary decision but falls well short of what is needed. The government must show that it has learnt the lessons and immediately abandon plans for yet more privately run prisons.”

G4S custodial and detention services managing director Jerry Petherick said the company will work closely with the Ministry of Justice to ensure a “smooth transition” over the next three months.

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