Concern is raised over prison privatisation plan

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THREE prisons in Doncaster are to be privatised, the Government has announced.

Moorland, Lindholme and Hatfield will all be run by private firms – although controversial security firm G4S, which was heavily criticised for its handling of the Olympic Games security contract in the summer – has now been ruled out of the running.

Three companies – Sodexo, Serco and a MTC/Amey consortium – remain in the bidding process for the three South Yorkshire jails.

But the move has been met with criticism from prison officer leaders who have called for further consultation over the plan.

Public and Commercial Services general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The privatisation of our prison service ought to be a national scandal, and that this has happened without any public debate is shameful. It is morally reprehensible that companies are profiting from locking people up and we urgently need an independent review to look at the impact on our communities, staff and prisoners.”

His words were echoed by Armthorpe parish councillor and former prison officer Tony Brown who said: “It is just a cost-cutting exercise which destroys prison officers’ morale.

“It is all about saving money but, in doing so, prison officers are being reduced to the status of mere security guards.

“It used to be a career – but not any more, there’s no longevity in the industry.”

The union remains concerned about the future of public prisons, as justice minister Chris Grayling has made clear further privatisation was likely and non-custodial functions could be outsourced.

There are already 13 other private prisons in the UK, holding 15 per cent of the prison population – a worldwide record, beating even the USA, where private prisons account for nine per cent of prisoners.

The Ministry of Justice said the prisons competition process had produced a ‘compelling package of reforms’ which it hoped would save £450m over the next six years.

The town’s other jail, HMP Doncaster, which opened in Marshgate near the town centre 1994, has always been managed privately and is currently run by Serco.