Troubled jail given help: Extra staff to be drafted in to newest privatised prison

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The Independent Online
EXTRA managers and staff have been drafted in to run Britain's newest privatised jail amid allegations of disorder and mismanagement.

Penal reformers yesterday greeted the decision to bring in about 20 staff, including security officers, middle managers and finance workers, to Doncaster jail in South Yorkshire, as evidence that private prisons are being run by unqualified companies that are cutting costs.

The Prison Service is known to have expressed concern about several aspects of the jail, including the facilities for visitors. The prison, which opened in June, is jointly owned by Wackenhut Corporation, an American penal corporation, and the British services company Serco. They were awarded the pounds 66m contract in January.

Since opening there have been a suicide, disturbances and the sacking of a nurse found to have a criminal record. Probation officers have expressed concern about the regime and complained that prison staff have been unable to find inmates and that intimidation was rife.

Last month a 20-year-old inmate died after being found hanging in his cell. Shaun Webster, who was allegedly a known suicide risk, was serving two years and eight months for offences including wounding, burglary and theft.

Premier Prisons, the company that runs the jail, confirmed yesterday that it had asked the Prison Service to bring in extra staff to help. A spokesman said it was to deal with 'teething problems'.

The move follows claims by probation officers that the jail, which holds about 770 inmates from all categories of prisoner, was understaffed.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, said last year that 12 of the country's 130 jails would be privatised. He said it would act as a 'spur to higher standards and greater cost efficiency'. Critics accused him of handing out licences to make money.

Stephen Shaw, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: 'All the previous assumptions about efficiency are now obsolete.'