What a damn shame. One private firm that engages in thuggery is shunned by the British government:
The private security firm G4S said tonight that it was “extremely disappointed” to lose a multimillion-pound government contract to forcibly deport foreign nationals.
A decision to award the lucrative contract to a rival firm was announced today, two weeks after G4S guards were arrested by police investigating the death of an Angolan deportee at Heathrow.
The company that will now deport detainees from next year, Reliance Security Task Management Limited, already manages several contracts for the Prison Service.
Three G4S guards were released on bail this month after being questioned over the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan who collapsed and died on BA flight 77 as it was preparing to depart for Luanda. G4S said it had received assurances that the failure to renew its contract was related to the price of its bid “and not to recent events”.
But not to worry. According to a recent piece in the Financial Times, business is booming for private companies looking to make a fortune on the misery of others. Disaster capitalism running riot:
To private providers seeking to maximise their advantage from Wednesday’s comprehensive spending review, criminal justice represents an opportunity – despite the axe poised over a £4bn prison-building programme inherited by the government from Labour.
Serco and G4S believe there are still rich pickings to be found in the “offender management” budget of Ken Clarke, justice secretary, not least as he tries to modernise the most Dickensian parts of the prison estate by opening them up to market competition.
Mr Clarke’s need for private investment will be crucial as he struggles to bring about a “rehabilitation revolution” at the same time as taking a hatchet to costs. However, the historic evidence on whether companies have been any better at running prisons than the public sector is hardly compelling.
Ben Crewe and Alison Liebling of Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology have published one of the few in-depth studies to compare the performance of private and public prisons. Their findings highlight some real concerns about privatisation – particularly when spending is being brutally curtailed.
Mr Crewe says that the performance of company-run prisons is extremely variable. At one end of the scale there is Altcourse, the G4S prison that is recognised by some as one of the best in England and Wales. At the other end there is Wolds, another G4S jail that received a damning assessment this year from the chief inspector of prisons for its “considerable weaknesses”, including a rampant drugs culture and lack of confidence by staff to confront bad behaviour.
“The best private prisons are – relatively speaking – very good, particularly in terms of staff-prisoner relationships and prisoner development and well-being,” says Mr Crewe. “However, as the prisons inspector has also noted, the worse-performing ones are poor in most areas: relationships; security; professionalism; use of authority; and prisoner development and well-being.”
The Cambridge research team – given lengthy access to several private and public jails – found that generous contract terms had a clear and positive impact on company-run prisons, with Altcourse a good example of a well-funded jail. But it also found that money was not the only reason that some private prisons performed better than others. Lowdham Grange, a training prison run by Serco, was “very good”, it said, but it had a relatively modest contract.
Mr Crewe warned the fact that private jails tended to use fewer prison guards, often far less experienced than their public sector counterparts, meant there was a real risk of “things going badly wrong”, particularly when companies would be trying to squeeze a profit from cheaper contracts.
Take this as an example:
A private security company plans to start renting out custody cells to police forces across the country in a move it says could save forces more than £400 million a year and help return officers to the streets.
G4S Police Support Services said it hoped to sign its first contract with a police force in November and to start operating the cells by July next year.
The new suites, which will be overseen by police custody sergeants but staffed by G4S employees, will cut costs by centralising facilities, the firm said.
Managing director John Shaw said it will ‘improve the whole experience of custody for everyone’ and ‘cut red tape for police officers, enabling them to return to the beat faster’.
The custody suites were being launched now ‘primarily because of the financial situation’ and they will help to ensure ‘significant cost savings for the public sector’, bring in efficiencies and ‘standardise the way custody is delivered’, he said.