More prisons to be privatised

By Charles Maggs

Four prisons are to be taken over by the private sector, the Ministry of Justice has announced, in a controversial move minsters claim will save millions of pounds.

Northumberland prison, together with South Yorkshire's Moorland, Hatfield and Lindholme prisons, are to be run by private security firms, with the winning bidders yet to be decided.

But Francis Cook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, says the coalition has not learned the lessons of the summer's G4S fiasco.

"The government will seek to deflect criticism of its prison privatisation programme by excluding G4S from the next stage of the bidding process, but the principle of awarding lucrative contracts to private companies running prisons on the cheap remains unchallenged," she said.

"This is still a mistake of Olympic proportions."

Other prisons were considered but the Ministry of Justice said that the bids received to run them were not up to standard.

Wolds prison will be returning to public management in July 2013 when the contract with its current management contract expires.

The department believes the move will save around £450 million.

"The cost of running our prisons is too high and must be reduced. We can do this by being more innovative and efficient, and without compromising public safety," justice secretary Chris Grayling said.

"That is why I have decided to take a new approach to how we compete prison services and reduce unit costs across the prison estate that will lead to better value for the tax-payer, linked to more effective services to reduce reoffending."