Preferred bidders announced in hugely delayed, secretive prison services privatisation

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has recently announced the ‘preferred bidders’ to take on contracts to provide prison services focusing on maintenance, facilities and other areas. The services are being privatised and sold off via a hugely delayed, secretive process without any opportunity for public discussion or debate.

The process is more than a year and a half behind schedule and yet there is little in the public domain about the contracts, what will be included, what the terms will be, or the rationale for privatising them in the first place. Moreover, there has been no opportunity for a public interest case for keeping the services in-house.

The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has several key concerns about the privatisation of prison maintenance services. Steve Gillan, General Secretary, POA, said:

‘The government is privatising prison maintenance services and selling them off to two huge multinationals in a process that lacks transparency and has been without opportunity for public scrutiny. The process has been hugely delayed and, with so few bidders, can hardly be called a competition at all. The impact on staff, service quality and public safety will be serious, as the two preferred bidders have little or very poor experience in the criminal justice system and will be looking to maximise profits.’

The two desired bidders are multinational corporations Amey and Carillion. Amey is a partner (with multinational GEO Group) of the wider corporate group GEOAmey, whose provision of prison escort services was beset with multiple and serious failures:

  • The £900m prison escort contract delivered by GEOAmey was labelled an ‘absolute farce’, after it emerged that GEOAmey had purchased the wrong vans that are too big to fit through court entrances. In some cases this led to roads being dug up so the vans could git under arches, in others in prisoners walking to court. It also led to significant delays in court proceedings.
  • GEO Amey took the decision to send a prison van on a 96 mile round-trip to drive a prisoner 50 yards because they did not have a vehicle in the local vicinity, estimated to have cost taxpayers £1,000.
  • GEO Amey routinely transported children and women with adult males, exposing them to verbal abuse and intimidation.

The winning bidder(s) will take on the provision of the following for public sector prisons across England and Wales:

  • maintenance
  • works and building projects
  • management of prison stores
  • waste disposal and collection
  • energy and environmental management
  • cleaning
  • escorting of contractors and their vehicles

The preferred bidders are:

  • Lot 1 – Amey – North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humberside
  • Lot 2 – Amey – East Midlands, West Midlands, Wales
  • Lot 3 – Carillion – East of England, London
  • Lot 4 – Carillion – South West, South Central, Kent and Sussex

Sign our petition to stop the government privatising our justice system and gambling with public safety!

For more information regarding GEO Amey’s provision of prison escort services and wider failures by outsourcing companies in their delivery of justice services, please see Howard League for Penal Reform (2014) Corporate Crime? A dossier on the failure of privatisation in the criminal justice system.

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The government is fragmenting the justice system, privatising policing, probation and prison services, closing courts, slashing the legal aid budget and making drastic cuts to funding. This will undermine the system, reduce access to justice and put public safety at risk.

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