Foreign firms may bid to run three prisons

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The Independent Online

Ministers are facing anger after announcing that three prisons could be handed over to private companies, with foreign firms among those expected to submit bids for the lucrative contract.

Ministers are facing anger after announcing that three prisons could be handed over to private companies, with foreign firms among those expected to submit bids for the lucrative contract.

They insist that the massive sale is designed to drive up standards and achieve greater value for money. But the move has run into immediate opposition from prison officers and penal reform groups, who accuse the Home Office of threatening jails with privatisation.

The "for sale" notice will be put over the cluster of three prisons on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent. They hold nearly 2,000 male prisoners and operate on an annual budget of £37m.

The Prison Service will bid to continue running Elmley, Standford Hill and Swaleside jails. Phil Wheatley, the director general of the Prison Service, said: "I have every intention of beating the private sector on quality." Private companies already run 11 jails.