PUBLIC SECTOR PRISONS NOT PRIVATE SECTOR PROFITS

Alongside the PCS union that represents over 5,000 prison staff, Wales Green Party is calling for an independent review of prison privatisation. We would like this review to take into account issues such as:

  • prisoners welfare in a profit driven environment
  • value for money for the public purse
  • the real costs of delivering these services effectively
  • the moral question of whether state punishment should ever be used to make a profit for private sector companies
  • the impact on public sector staff and local communities in these prisons facing privatisation

This comes in the wake of the recent furore over plans for a 2,000 inmate ‘superprison’ in Wrexham. Over and above the concerns listed above, the Wrexham proposals would site the prison on a former factory site close to residential areas. It is the scale and location of the prison that Andy Chyba, Wales Green Party lead candidate for next years Euro elections, takes issue with. He says:

“I recognise that this part of Wales currently has no facilities to house local prisoners, and we support the concept of local prisons, but this proposal is not about what is good for communities, nor is it about providing offenders with the best chance of rehabilitation. This is all about providing huge private companies the chance to profit from economies of scale and the inevitable squeeze on staff costs that always goes with privatisation of services that ought to be in the public sector”.

The Wrexham prison would dwarf Parc Prison in Bridgend, currently the biggest in Wales with around 1200 inmates. It is planned to greatly expand Parc in the near future, but as Wales only private prison to date, it has seen more than its fair share of controversy in its 16 year history.

G4S has always run the prison, and their reputation goes before them. When it opened it was planned to make it a high-tech prison with with computer systems, swipe cards and personalised voice identification equipment. By using computer and surveillance equipment, G4S hoped to cut down the number of staff needed in the prison and make it more difficult for prisoners to escape. The technology repeatedly failed. The inadequate provisions for young offenders led to sky high suicide rates. A 2004 Independent Monitoring Board report rated it the worst-performing prison in England & Wales, with staff morale especially highlighted as cause for concern. [1]

Chyba issues this warning:
“When you turn over this sort of service to private corporations, there is only ever one outcome. It always puts the emphasis on profit before people, and as unpleasant as some of them may be, prisons have to be about the people in them first and foremost.”

He goes on to cite the example of the most successful prisons in Europe – successful in terms of the lowest re-offending rates. He argues that these are the ones that provide the best value for money – as it is hard to actually put a value on salvaged lives. He points out that by far the best re-offending rates in Europe are at Bastoy Prison in Norway, which houses the full spectrum of offenders [2]:

“This place has less than half the re-offending rates of UK prisons, and at more than £40,000 a year per UK prisoner, you do the maths. How does it do this? By giving people trust and responsibility and treating them like the decent human beings that we want them to become. You cannot do this in the human equivalent of a factory farm.”

You can sign the PCS petition calling for an independent review by following this link: http://pcslive.bluestatedigital.com/page/s/public-sector-prisons-not-private-sector-profit

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HM_Prison_Parc
[2] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/feb/25/norwegian-prison-inmates-treated-like-people

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