Private bids for prisons

HMP Lindholme.
HMP Lindholme.
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HUNDREDS of Doncaster prison staff are said to be ‘devastated’ over plans which could see three borough jails privatised.

HMP Moorland, HMP Lindholme, and Hatfield young offenders’ institute are all to be put up for bids from private companies under plans announced by Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke.

The process will start in the autumn and is expected to be completed by the autumn next year.

The public sector will be allowed to put in bids.

Staff at the three sites were addressed by their governors yesterday to hear details of the proposal.

But the move has sparked fears among staff of possible job losses and reductions in pay and conditions.

Rick Midgley, HMP Moorland’s branch secretary for the Prison Officers’ Association, said: “Staff are genuinely devastated by this announcement. Forget the riots that happened, these are good prisons that are potentially going to be sold off.

“We are going to try our hardest to win the bid. We are concerned that we are going to lose jobs, and are worried that the private sector will pay lower wages and provide poorer pension provision.

“I feel betrayed - I’ve given 21 years’ service to Her Majesty’s Prison Service and it feels like they’re selling us off.

“I think the implications in the human cost to the town if jobs go are horrendous. But we’re also worried about what this will mean for the safety of the staff, the inmates and the public.

“I think it is wrong to imprison people to make profits for shareholders, and I don’t think it is what the public wants.”

HMP Moorland employs around 300 staff. Lindholme has more.

HMP Doncaster, at Marshgate, is already privately run, by Serco.

The Government says the move is an important part of its strategy to improve the efficiency and value for money of our services.

It says decisions about which prisons were selected for competition was based on a wide range of criteria including the potential for efficiency improvements, service reform, and innovation, not on the basis of poor performance.

Ministers say the changes will not compromise public safety or reduce the quality of services, and that they will always ensure there are sufficient prison places for offenders sentenced to custody by the courts.

Justice Secretary Mr Clarke said: “The public have a right to expect continuing improvement in the quality and efficiency of public services, without compromising public safety. The competition strategy and adjustments to the prison estate will help ensure that this is the case.”