Government Take Over HMP Birmingham From G4S
Although they are supposed to be a security firm, G4S don’t seem to be doing a great job at keeping things secure, ironically seeming to break laws in the process. The security firm has seen lots of failures and setbacks in recent years, whether it’s tagging dead people, cooking their books, or failing to provide adequate security measures at the Olympics, as well as youth detention centres and immigration centres. Whoever is doing their PR must have nerves of steel.
The most recent failure from G4S sees HMP Birmingham being taken over from them by the government, despite G4S’s contract to run the prison not expiring until 2026. Inspectors claimed that Birmingham Prison had fallen into a “state of crisis”, with Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke calling it “the worst prison” he’s ever visited.
Absolute chaos and anarchy
Prison inspectors are said to have found numerous worrying things at HMP Birmingham, including sleeping staff, a strong smell of drugs, cockroaches scurrying around, and vomit, blood, and rat droppings on the prison floors. In response to Clarke’s description of the prison’s abysmal failures, HMP Birmingham is having its capacity reduced by 300 and extra staff are being brought in to control the inmate population.
Synthetic cannabis substances, which are much more dangerous than regular cannabis, seemed to have led to 3 recent deaths in the prison, as well as 3 suicides in the past 18 months. In 2017 alone, there were 1,147 assaults recorded at the prison, meaning that at least 3 fights on average occur every day.
This is the highest figure ever recorded for a prison in England or Wales, having grown by 5 times since G4S took over in 2012. More than one-third of these assaults in 2017 were against staff members, meaning that a staff member of HMP Birmingham was attacked at least once per day on average throughout 2017.
Is privatization a bad idea?
This is the first time in 26 years that the government has been forced to take over a subpar privately-run prison, despite the company (G4S in this case) only being part-way through their contract. Clarke described G4S as producing an abject failure in terms of contract management and delivery, leading to an unruly prison with a lack of order whereby certain inmates could inflict violence with “near impunity” and former inmates described feeling as though they would “die there at any moment”.
In light of the recent takeover, some members of the government are calling for an end to privatization of the nation’s prisons. There are now 13 privately managed prisons in England and Wales, 4 of which are still run by G4S.
Please see: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/20/hmp-birmingham-rory-stewart-private-public-prisons
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