Friday, 9 March 2007

Prison Privatisation

Well the presentation went sort of okay, i got 68% which is nearly a first (oh how I wanted a first on this) and i kinda did bits, but realised i missed quite a large bit out on my slides. All in all, yet again i wasn't organised enough.

Anyway, Prison Privatisation began happening in the 1990's after the passing of the Criminal Justice Act (1991) which included privatisation of ancialliary services to prisons (catering, ecuation, prison escorts etc.) and new build remand prisons (although a clause was included to get rid of 'new build remand' so it would include all prisons after a year or so). Prior to this as we all know Thatcher's Tories had been selling off basic industires (steel, railways etc.) and utilities (water, gas, electricity, telecomms), although Douglas Hurd as late as 1987 had said that privatising prisons was a daft idea (this is how far to the right Blair is, more right wing than the early Thatcher governments), although in the 1970's detention centres at airports had been increasingly privatised and by 1988 half of them were privately run.
It's important to note that by privatisation I mean 'contracting out' rather then selling off assests in relation to prisons.
The first contracting out was during the overcrowding crisis in 1988 when a military barrcaks was used to house prisoners, the catering for this barracks was contracted out. The first private prison opened in 1992, HMP Wolds, and now we have 11, (two that were private have reverted back to the public sector). 9 of these are pfi prisons.
Now I'm sure most people know what pfi is by now, but i'll recap, the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) means that all new builds must consider priavte finance before public finance for these. Generally speaking it means that private money (borrowed at a higher rate than public) gets used for building new state buildings, which doesn't count against public sector borrowing making Gordon Brown look good, although in the long run it costs lots more.
Apart from that, private companies are going to make cuts to increase profits so for example public prisons staffs pay is about 25% higher (this is lower paid staff only), private prisons are understaffed and more overcrowded than public prisons (and are generally worse in many areas (not all though)).
Apart from the conflicts of interest and moral arguements too this shows that prison privatisation isn't a good idea. And that's after you've assumed that prison in itself is a good idea.
The future however looks bleak, although no new private prisons have opened in the last few years, PFI carries on apace in other areas, and with the current overcrowding crisis (remember overcrowding gave the spur to the beginnings of prisons privatisation) it look like more is to come.
For me the left should be opposed to prison privatisation. Firstly it diverts even more resources from education & health and other areas. Second there's worse conditions for prison staff. But most of all we should campaign against capitalism as a whole for causing the majority of crime, which without capitalism around we wouldn't be discussing prisons as a whole, much less privatising them.

PS. Below i've posted a link to the trade union public services not private profit campaign, which has info on the probation service

No comments: