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Private jails more violent, staff report

PRISON officers gave a stark warning to MPs today that private jails are more violent and overcrowded than those in the public sector.

Giving evidence to the justice select committee, POA national chairman Mark Fairhurst pointed out that “12 of the 14 private prisons are overcrowded” – 86 per cent, compared to 58 per cent overall.

He charged: “They’re overcrowded by choice because the more prisoners they have, the more profit they make.”

Mr Fairhurst also highlighted recent government statistics showing that the four prisons with the highest number of assaults in Britain are all in the private sector.

His evidence echoed comments made in the Commons last week by Labour’s Mary Glindon, who insisted: “This level of violence is a consequence of running prisons for profit, where costs are cut to the bone to maximise returns for shareholders.”

Mr Fairhurst accused the private sector of an “obsession” with sticking to scheduled routines for prisoners, known as the regime, adding that companies “get fined if they restrict the regime and the shareholders shout at them.”

Fellow witness Julia Rogers, managing director of justice and immigration for private security giant Serco, appeared to agree, admitting: “Yes, we are encouraged at all costs to keep the regime running.”

Mr Fairhurst also highlighted the injustice of raising his members’ retirement age from 60 to 68, insisting: “There is no way on this Earth, physically or mentally, that prison officers can work in that violent and hostile environment in their sixties.”

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