Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

Posted on 13 January 2014 at 13:56 GMT

The underbelly of prison privatisation and the creatures who profit

Brian Caton, Barnsley Socialist Party and former POA general secretary

Private prisons and particularly Oakwood - run by G4S - have once again been in the news. The social media sites have been alive with comment from those who work in prisons, those who have served prison sentences and the perceived wise people (including myself) who have now retired from one of the aforementioned groups.

There is some common ground amongst all comments. Oakwood has been an absolute disaster. It's a very dangerous place to be and clearly cannot continue along the path it has been allowed to tread thus far.

The Chief Inspector of Prisons has delivered a scathing attack on how it has been run, while at the same time the Minister for Prisons says he sees it as a model for future prisons. This contradiction involving two key figures makes worthy an examination of the philosophy of prison privatisation.

It is easy, if not a little laborious, to peel back the pages of this issue and give the reader dates, times and a history lesson including facts, figures and statistics - some of which are abused in a biased and self-serving way to justify privatisation.

I am opposed to prison privatisation. I am opposed to all privatisation of public services. But as a socialist, there is nothing difficult to understand in those statements.

There are many objections that I have been caused to use, over many years, to answer the prison privatisation experiment - because that's what it remains, an experiment. These include many issues: ethical, moral, political, financial, practical; and of course the pay and conditions of staff and the welfare and safety of staff, prisoners and society as a whole.

There are those who have argued that the so called 'competition ethos' has driven up standards and has caused change which has been to the betterment of all. I agree that there have been changes that have been hugely to the assistance of some people - those who are profit-making.

The chief architect of this 'decency' agenda was the former Director General and Chief Executive of NOMS (the National Offender Management Service), Martin Narey. Martin, recently knighted and now advisor on children to Michael Gove, made sure the competition ethos worked by handing out contracts for new prisons to privateers whilst taking a couple of poorly resourced private prisons back into the public sector, spending public money improving them, only to offer them back to the same private companies a few years later.

The big failure inherent within the whole of this costly, unevaluated charade, seems almost a side issue, and is the effect this has had on the everyday functioning of the prison system.


Many issues have been attributed to causing prison riots, but certainly to those charged with examining these matters, site overcrowding and poor care of prisoners are major contributory factors. The current 'race to the bottom' under the competition/privatisation culture is creating overcrowding and poor care of prisoners with the leaders of the prison service, having been advocates of this mess, left with nowhere to go. One thing is for certain, it will get tragically worse.

So what of those who hold the system up as a great achievement? Well they are not being hurt in riots. They are not prisoners being failed by a system that, with the planned privatisation of the probation service, will release them from prison without the necessary help and support and into a society of cuts and job losses. This will affect us all.

Martin Narey has recently taken to justifying the whole of the current mess. Firstly, when it is said that no one should profit from imprisonment, Martin's response is that he, myself and many others were paid to be in the prison service and therefore profited from incarceration. If one follows his logic, those working in the NHS profit from disease, those workers in the DWP profit from unemployment, disability and even death. He goes on to justify his beloved capitalist views by saying that if we had kept a state-owned telecommunications company no one would have mobile smartphones or the system that networks them.

I do not cite this to have a cheap shot at Sir Martin, but to allow for a clear perspective on how certain individuals can affect public services. I saw a move from "it doesn't really matter who delivers the service so long as it's a good service" philosophy through to a "public bad - private good" mantra and on to dangerous failure.

Oakwood should be brought back into public ownership, but if the government has its way the damage caused by privatisation in the prison service will live on and get worse.

Reducing wages across all public services has been aided by privatisation. The losses to the prison service of staff with huge levels of experience will not be rectified by poorly trained, badly paid recruits.

Unless and until an incoming government accepts the need to end this foolish capitalist adventure, there will be riots, there will be injuries , there will be further crime and tragically there will be deaths.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 13 January 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

Related links:


triangle4,800 young people hurt after officers 'restrain' them

triangleRate of black imprisonment worse than US

trianglePrison deaths scandal

triangleAction needed to defend workers at the sharp end of prisons crisis


triangleSchool staff strike against privatisation


triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleSheffield trees campaigner sentenced to prison

triangleSheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison


triangleNationalise to save jobs at BAE Systems

triangleNasty party out the Tories

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Anti-DOO lobby of Liverpool's transport committee



Unite protest against blacklisting


Donald Trump

Mobilise to stop bigoted billionaire Donald Trump's state visit to Britain



Arriva bus strikers stand firm



BT pensions review - oppose the attacks on the pension schemes



Driving examiners walkout hits first day of new test



School staff strike against privatisation



Brutal rail privateer Abellio takes over Midlands rail services



PCS Left Unity celebrates 40th anniversary at annual conference


North Yorkshire

Court maintains injunction against fracking protesters


Waltham Forest

Waltham Forest Universal Credit protest



Coventry Socialist sales hit 1,000



TUSC conference to debate 2018 elections



Liverpool John Moores Uni landslide for Socialist Students



Plans to launch no-cuts campaign at Kirklees College

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle8 Dec Local government pay: fight for the full 5% claim

triangle6 Dec Strikers rally in Liverpool

triangle6 Dec Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme

triangle5 Dec Victory at Glenfield shows people power can save our NHS

triangle5 Dec Labour council Blairites deselected

triangle30 Nov Victory: Glenfield Children's Heart Centre saved!

triangle30 Nov Dramatic retelling of Grunwick strike

More ...

triangle13 Dec Caerphilly Socialist Party: Are we heading for an era of war?

triangle14 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Universal Credit - the Tories' latest assault on the poor

triangle18 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangle19 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas social

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice