Fighting privatised prisons is a noble act

Multinational G4S manages prisons the world over and its human rights record is troubling; the company makes money from misery.

These workers are right to protest the company in Britain:

The military has been put on standby as the prison service braces itself for a day of industrial disruption over the first privatisation of an existing British jail.

The Prison Officers’ Association has instructed branches at prisons throughout Britain to hold lunchtime meetings to discuss their mandate to take industrial action in protest, despite a strike ban.

More than 250 staff at Birmingham prison, which is to be run by private security company G4S from October, walked out when the decision was announced on Wednesday. They returned to work in the afternoon. Officials told staff to turn up as normal on Friday for a branch gate meeting.

The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, said soldiers had been put on standby and told MPs: “If people are so unwise as to take industrial action in prisons, the situation can rapidly become far worse than in a normal strike because we start getting disorder among the prisoners.”

Governors said the “unprecedented decision” would have a resounding effect on the prison service.

The POA’s general secretary, Steve Gillan, said: “We will not make a kneejerk reaction. We will study what we can do and take direction from our members, but we will not rule out industrial action. The NEC have a strategy and this will be enacted in the forthcoming days.” He said that it was for a judge, not ministers or managers, to determine what was illegal industrial action.

Clarke told MPs that after a tendering process begun in 2009 under Jack Straw, then Labour justice minister, G4S were to take over the 1,450-place Victorian prison at Winson Green, Birmingham from October on a 14-year contract.

They are also to run a “super-size” 1,600-place prison, Featherstone 2, on the same site as Featherstone prison, Wolverhampton. G4S said the two contracts were worth …£750m over their lifetime.

A third prison, Buckley Hall at Rochdale, is to remain in the public sector while Serco, a rival to G4S, retained the contract for Doncaster prison with a 10% “payment by results” element.

There are 11 privately run prisons in England and Wales. The first, the Wolds in East Yorkshire, opened shortly before Clarke became home secretary in 1992. All were newly built and no publicly run jail has yet transferred to the private sector. The unions fear more of the 140 prisons in England and Wales will follow and the justice secretary strongly hinted at further rounds of competitive tendering.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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