Private Sector Prisons

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 29th January 2008.

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Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire 2:30 pm, 29th January 2008

What recent representations he has received on the performance of prisons run by private sector organisations.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

Since 9 May 2007, I have received a number of submissions in relation to the performance of prisons run by private sector organisations. I am also provided with regular updates on the performance of private prisons through the independent monitoring board reports and the National Offender Management Service quarterly reports.

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Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

Private prisons have been an utter disaster, with abject assessments on the key requirements of security, maintaining order and reducing reoffending. No wonder 90 per cent. of them languish in the lowest poor performance quartile of the 132 jails in England and Wales: see early-day motion 752. Why is this track record of private contractors allowed to continue, with the love affair with the profit motive producing environments that the chief inspector of prisons, no less, describes as

"unsafe and unstable for both prisoners and staff"?

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I know that my hon. Friend has some reservations, dare I say it, with regard to the private prison sector, but I would say to him that direct comparisons between public and private sector establishments on the scorecard are not appropriate and that private prisons are providing a valuable function in the custodial estate. He will know that we are looking at a new assessment framework to see how we can drive up standards in both the public sector and the private sector. I hope that he will share the Government's aspiration to ensure that we undertake proper assessment and tackle underperformance where it exists.

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Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

What is the quality of the provision made in private prisons for education, training, skills and rehabilitation so that more people come out of prison able to enter a proper responsible life outside prison? It is important that those facilities be provided. What is the level and quality of that provision in our private prisons?

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a great interest in this matter, which is important because the quality of education, training and employment can affect the prospects for limiting reoffending when people leave prison. I recently visited Parc prison, in the constituency of my hon. Friend Mrs. Moon, and other private prisons, where significantly good work is going on to match employers with offenders, to look at investment in training, to ensure that people are prepared for life outside prison, and to help to reduce reoffending. There will always be variations in the level of provision and variations between some private prisons and some public prisons. The job of Government is to drive up quality throughout the public and private sectors to achieve the end that the hon. Gentleman shares with us.

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