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Tues 15 February 2011

Police cells privatisation suggestion 'crazy' says police staffs union

Police staffs union UNISON today (Tues) called apparent proposals to privatise police cells "crazy" and claimed that they would result in another costly PFI scheme which would be bad value for money for the taxpayer. The comments came after press reports that two Scottish police forces were in discussions with private security firm G4 Security to provide prison cells.

The track record of G4 in handling prisoners and running prisons does not inspire confidence.

This is the company which ran the Oakington detention centre where violence against prisoners and  racial abuse against inmates was exposed in a BBC documentary at the Oakington detention centre. The Prison Ombudsman’s report described the centre as having a "subculture of nastiness".  Group 4 left the security manager in charge of the centre in post. 

This is the company which ran the Yarls Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire where fire caused around £35 million in damages. Group 4 had ignored the fire brigade's warnings that a sprinkler system should be installed before the centre was opened.

This is the company which ran Campsfield detention centre - scene of inmate suicides and repeated  complaints of violence against detainees. It eventually burnt down.  

This is the company which runs HMP Rye Hill, about which in her latest report (Jul 2009) the Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales noted that against three of the four tests for a healthy prison the establishment was "still not performing sufficiently well." On safety Rye Hill was performing "reasonably well." This standard however has only been reached following three previous reports over eight years. Each time the chief inspector "raised serious concerns about safety at the establishment and expressed concern about the ability of staff to maintain order and control."

Amongst the latest findings "reception remained a poor facility and induction relied too heavily on prisoner orderlies."  Staff at the prison "remained stretched" and this "limited the quantity and quality of interactions with prisoners." There remained a need for managers to be much more visible on the wings

This is the prisons company which made a 20% increase profit to £417.1 million for the financial year ended 31 December 2009.

UNISON Scotland organiser Dave Watson said:

"Privatising police cells would be crazy. If money is to be put into locking people up, that’s where it should go - not into the pockets of shareholders of a multinational security firm.

"Custody is about public safety not private profit. This is a company looking to using worries that police forces have about budgets to try and bounce them into PFI property deals which will be hugely profitable for the company but hugely expensive for the Scottish taxpayer.

"Scottish justice needs continuity and investment - not disruption at the hands of a multinational trying to fleece the taxpayer."


For further information, contact:

Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser for UNISON on 07958 122 409
UNISON Scotland Policy and Information 0141 342 2811/ 0795 685 2822