Two new jails announced by the government are to be privately run, it has emerged, as the role of profit-making prisons comes under increased scrutiny after the crisis at the formerly G4S-operated HMP Birmingham.
In a parliamentary written answer, the prisons minister, Rory Stewart, confirmed that HMP Glen Parva in Leicestershire will be privately run.
The MoJ previously said a new jail – HMP Wellingborough – would be privately run. Both prisons will be built using public capital.
In August, ministers were forced to take the operation of HMP Birmingham away from G4S while public sector officials attempted to restore order to the prison. High levels of violence, drug use and self-harm had prompted the chief inspector of prisons to issue an urgent notification process to the justice secretary. This is the most severe course of action available to the inspector.
The shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, who tabled a written question asking if the new prisons would be privately run, said: “Just how bad does it have to get until the government ends its obsession with the private sector running huge swathes of our justice system in order to make a quick profit?
“This summer two flagship justice privatisations ran aground, with HMP Birmingham brought back under public control and the government forced to end the private probation contracts early. But the Tories refuse to learn the lessons.
“There are very real fears that corners will be cut to as the private contractors running these new prisons put profits first. Public accountability is also likely to be undermined as the private companies, hiding behind the cloak of commercial confidentiality, have no requirement to publish staffing levels for example.
“Labour in office will put an end to the scandal of our prisons being run for private profit.
In his response, Stewart said: “As set out on the 26 June at the justice select committee and in the 2017 manifesto, we remain committed to building up to 10,000 modern and decent prison places to replace old, expensive and unsuitable accommodation.
“As the chancellor set out in the budget on 30 October, we intend to build the first two prisons through public capital at Wellingborough, which is due to open in 2021, and Glen Parva, which we expect to open in 2022. We are planning to launch a competition later this year to establish a framework from which the operators of the new prisons will be chosen.
“HM Prison and Probation Service will not take part in the prison competition. We will provide a ‘public sector benchmark’ against which operators’ bids can be assessed and will take on the provider role if bids do not meet quality or value for money thresholds.”
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