Public sector may have to manage 'fragile' private jail

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The Independent Online

Ministers should consider sending a "hit squad" of public sector managers into a private jail which was heavily criticised in a report, the chief inspector of prisons will warn today.

Anne Owers proposed that a team of experienced senior and middle managers be sent into Rye Hill Prison, near Rugby, to improve standards. She said the jail had serious failings two years after it was condemned as "unstable and unsafe" by inspectors.

The Government ordered the jail's managers, Global Solutions Limited, to improve and cut the number of inmates despite Britain's record prison population.

Ms Owers warned that the prison was "fundamentally fragile". She said there were serious concerns about inexperienced staff working at the jail.

The report found that just over half of prisoners said they had felt unsafe at the prison, while more than a quarter felt unsafe during the unannounced inspection. A "listeners" scheme had been set up for prisoners, but the report warned that one man "who had acknowledged racist and homophobic instincts" had been appointed as a listener to help fellow inmates.

Ms Owers said: "Given the scale of the task we believe that the National Offender Management Service should consider sending in a team of experienced public sector senior and middle managers for a period to assist the director to stabilise the prison, establish and implement systems, and provide effective support for front-line staff."

The new director of Rye Hill, Cathy James, said the prison was "moving in the right direction". "We accept that, overall, Rye Hill is far from performing well and we need to raise performance across all aspects of its operation," she added.