South Yorkshire prison privatisation moves step closer

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GOVERNMENT plans to hand over three South Yorkshire prisons to the private sector have moved a step forward.

The Government asked for bids from private companies for the contracts to run a number of jails across the country, including Lindholme, Hatfield and Moorland in Doncaster, and has announced the frontrunners.

Ministers have said the contracts will be awarded to either Sodexo, Serco or MTC/Amey next spring.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the bids ‘produced a compelling package of reforms for delivering cost reduction, improvements to regimes and a working prisons model in these prisons’.

But Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, described the Government’s decision to hand over prisons to the private sector as ‘a mistake of Olympic proportions’.

“The principle of awarding lucrative contracts to private companies running prisons on the cheap remains unchallenged,” she said.

“Something as important as taking away someone’s freedom should only be done by the state, answerable to taxpayers, rather than by international private security firms, answerable only to their shareholders.”

Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said it was ‘morally reprehensible that companies are profiting from locking people up’.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced a new approach to prison privatisation, revealing private firms will be brought in to all public prisons to run maintenance, resettlement and possibly catering in a move which could save up to £450 million over the next six years.

Mr Grayling said the new approach would ‘lead to better value for the tax-payer, linked to more effective services to reduce reoffending’.