Prison privatisation won't work: effective, rehabilitating prisons are in all of our interests

The privatisation scramble extends far beyond all of these aspects of our everyday lives, into the critical exercises of the power of the state over individual citizens

Share
Related Topics

This government’s privatisation folder is bulging at the seams.

There’s an unseemly rush to sell off the (profitable) Royal Mail, a scramble to hand over the East Coast Mainline (profitable), and to hand over the NHS to a cadre of private firms that have shown they’re good at tendering for contracts, if not at delivering on them.

They are all disturbing, all make it clear that this government is driven by ideology, not any sort of sense, in its rush to convert public funds into private profits, despite the long trail of failures .

But the privatisation scramble extends far beyond all of these aspects of our everyday lives, into the critical exercises of the power of the state over individual citizens.

If this government has its way, we’ll be seeing Stobart defence lawyers speaking in front of G4S judges, with testimony from Virgin security officers, before defendants are sent off to Serco jails, then they're put in the "care" of Atos probation officers.

The Green Party is campaigning against all of these privatisations (and for the return of public services to public hands: you might want to ask your MP if they’re backing Caroline Lucas’s Private Members’ Bill that calls for the railways to be brought back into public hands).

One of these issues is going to attract less attention than the others, but it deserves at least as much. That’s prison privatisation: not necessarily a popular cause, despite the valiant efforts of the Howard League for Penal Reform and other campaigners, but important in fact to all of us, since effective, compassionate, rehabilitating prisons are in all of our interests.

All of the evidence that the already extensive privatisation programme is delivering extremely poor results, while two of the companies involved are being investigated for possibly having overcharged the government by “tens of millions of pounds” elsewhere in the justice system. But still the government pushes on.

We have an already privatisation-ridden prison system, the highest rate in Europe, and double the percentage of the private prisons in the US. Until September last year the cost of tendering, evaluation, mobilisation and transition of prisons is £10.7 million The Prison Reform Trust has set out many of the other problems.

The Green Party is backing the PCS campaign for a review of prison privatisation. It’s clear that what’s happening now is not working – the private sector is delivering poor quality, even dangerous, prison services, not terribly surprising since it is paying low wages and using generally inexperienced staff. That’s the normal pattern for privatisations, but particularly dangerous in this important sector.

There’s much we need to change in prisons – to reduce the number of prisoners, mainly those on short sentences that demonstrably fail in terms of both deterrence and rehabilitation; to provide stable, effective education and treatment that can fit prisoners to return to society and slash re-offending rates; and to improve the provision of alternatives to jail, particularly in the case of female offenders, who suffer from a very uneven spread of women’s centres.

But, finally, whatever arguments might be made about efficiency, about cost, about results, there’s a far more fundamental issue is at stake when it comes to prisons and privatisation, and all other coercive arms of the state from police to the military to border guards: these powers should only every be exercised by public servants, people employed by the state, whose line of reporting runs straight up to the minister, the secretary of state and the prime minister.

When they have the right to detain, to remove individual’s liberty, to restrain and even inflict harm, only full, complete democratic accountability is good enough.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Reeyot Alemu (L) and Eskinder Nega (R)  

Voices in Danger: Ethiopian journalists are fleeing from prosecution while others languish in prison

Anne Mortensen
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?