For some concerning yet powerful reading about outsourcing failures and problems with privatisation, the dossier presented by the Howard League for Penal Reform to the police last month detailing years of serious failures by the companies G4S and Serco is worth reading. The Howard League called for G4S and Serco to be barred from bidding for government business until the major fraud investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) into their practices has been completed. The investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has resulted into the two companies agreeing to repay more than £180m after it was revealed that they had significantly overcharged the taxpayer for the provision of electronic tagging.
The dossier was based on a comprehensive report by the Howard League – Corporate Crime? A dossier on the failure of privatisation in the criminal justice system. The report explores failures by other private firms such as Sodexo and GEOAmey and was sent to MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The PAC has conducted investigations into government outsourcing of public services and reforms to criminal justice, including hearing evidence on electronic tagging last November, launching three reports critical of government policy. PAC concluded there were “serious risks” to government reforms and that “the government must get its house in order” in regard to public service outsourcing.
The report by the Howard League features a litany of deeply concerning cases, including:
- How a terminally-ill prisoner on his way to hospital was kept waiting in handcuffs for 40 minutes in the street, in full view of the public, while G4S staff went to a bakery for lunch.
- How Macmillan nurses were prevented, for contractual reasons, from entering a G4S prison to help an inmate dying of cancer.
- How unlawful restraint contributed to the death of a 14-year-old boy in a secure training centre run by Serco.
- How a Serco children’s prison became the most violent jail in England and Wales, accounting for one in 15 of assaults in the entire prison system
- How a woman in a Sodexo prison was allegedly forced to clean her cell after miscarrying.
- How a woman was held for five years in solitary confinement in a Sodexo prison.
- How roads had to be dug up after a £900million GEOAmey contract involved the purchase of prison vans that were too big to get into court premises.
- How a GEOAmey prison van embarked on a 96-mile trip to drive a prisoner 50 yards because of a lack of suitable vehicles in the vicinity.