Prisons and Probation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:58 pm on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice 12:58 pm, 14th May 2019

The voluntary sector plays an important role in our justice system and will continue to do so under a Labour Government.

Eight years ago, HMP Birmingham became the first publicly built, owned and operated UK prison to be transferred to the private sector. That is why its return to the public sector after such catastrophic failings under G4S should be a watershed moment. HMP Birmingham was the most violent prison in the country. When the state stepped in in August 2018 and took back control from G4S, what did it then do? It immediately brought in extra prison officers and moved hundreds of prisoners out—a clear indication of private sector understaffing and of the overcrowding that results from the private sector putting profits first.

The crisis at Birmingham Prison was not localised; G4S has failed across the justice sector. It has been forced to give up youth prisons after abuse allegations. Horrific treatment in its immigration and detention centres has been exposed. The security giant is also still under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for its role in the electronic tagging scandal, which included charging for dead people. Let me be honest: its role in our justice system should have been suspended there and then, but the Government appear to be in hock to it, which is no wonder given that it has Ministry of Justice contracts worth £5 billion.