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Prison privatisation 'fundamentally at odds’ with decent justice system

POLICE were handed a dossier yesterday detailing a damning array of failings by prison privateers G4S and Serco.

The Howard League for Penal Reform compiled the document in response to ministers’ decision to allow the pair to bid for public contracts while they are under criminal investigation.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is looking into allegations that they overcharged the government hundreds of millions for prisoner tagging.

Campaigners hope the dossier Corporate Crime? will not only blow the lid off G4S and Serco’s abuses but call into question whether privateers should be allowed anywhere near the criminal justice system.

Howard League chief Frances Crook said: “We are asking the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police to use their resources and expertise to help the SFO with its complex investigation into possible widespread criminality by companies profiting from public money.”

The report highlights shocking individual cases in order to “show systemic issues in the privatisation of justice.”

It adds: “There are questions to be asked about whether the aims of such companies are fundamentally at odds with the aims of reducing the prison population and reoffending.

“This is not just about individual companies, it is also about the inherent dangers of privatising the justice system.

“This is not a failing of the private sector; it is what the private sector is — their concern is to make profits for shareholders.”

A more comprehensive report covering other privateers such as Sodexo and GEOAmey will be sent to the Commons public accounts committee.

The incidents detailed in yesterday’s dossier took place in privately run prisons and young offenders’ institutes.

They include a terminally ill prisoner on his way to hospital who was kept waiting in handcuffs for 40 minutes in the street, in full view of the public, while G4S staff went to a Greggs bakery for lunch.

At another G4S prison Macmillan nurses were prevented from entering to help an inmate dying of cancer.

At a Serco-run secure facility a 14-year-old boy killed himself after being unlawfully restrained.

The dossier also points the finger at Sodexo, which ran a prison where a woman was allegedly forced to clean her cell after miscarrying.

Probation officers are facing the sell-off of 70 per cent of the service and their union Napo backed the Howard League’s concerns.

Napo greater London chair Pat Waterman said: “We are extremely worried about the companies who are bidding to run the Probation Service.

“The public deserves a justice system which is a fair, well-managed and accountable service and not one whose primary purpose is to make profits for shareholders.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The private sector has an important role to play in helping deliver much-needed reforms.”

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