200 prison jobs under threat?

By Jonathan BarnesTWO hundred jobs could be put at risk if one of the region's jails - which holds some of the country's worst young offenders - is sold off by the Government, it has been warned.

By Jonathan Barnes

TWO hundred jobs could be put at risk if one of the region's jails - which holds some of the country's worst young offenders - is sold off by the Government, it has been warned.

Prison Service bosses are considering putting all its dedicated juvenile jails that hold children and youngsters under 18 out to tender, including Warren Hill prison in Hollesley, near Woodbridge.

One of the options they are looking at is offering the four institutions as a job lot to be run by a private prison company in a deal believed to be worth about £50million.


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The move could put 200 jobs at Warren Hill - including more than 100 prison officers - under threat and was criticised last night as “morally repugnant”.

But the governor of the jail said he hoped to avoid the prison being privatised and added jobs should be secure even if that did happen.

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The privatisation plan is being proposed by Martin Narey, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, in an effort to boost competition and choice in the penal system.

Warren Hill could be included in a “cluster” of public sector jails dedicated to under-18s being put out to tender, along with Huntercombe, near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, Wetherby in West Yorkshire and Werrington in Stoke-on-Trent.

The proposals are being considered by Home Office ministers and, if approved, the four institutions will become the first public sector prisons to be handed over to the private sector.

Stuart Robinson, governor of Warren Hill, said: “We are aware that juvenile institutions are being considered for market testing and that is far as it has gone at the moment.”

He added if the prisons were put out to tender, the Prison Service would front a bid and contract out the running of each jail.

“We are not too worried if we are pulled into this round of market testing as we consider ourselves to be high performers,” said Mr Robinson.

“We would be able to contest for the business ourselves and are confident of winning any contest.”

Mr Robinson added he hoped to avoid a private company taking over the jail, but said if it came to that “extreme”, legislation should see staff transferred to the new provider.

Brian Caton, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, said it was “morally repugnant” for the Government to sell prisons to private companies “for profit”.

It is now planning to ballot staff on boycotting the tendering process. “We are not turkeys voting for Christmas and we will fight against any further encroachment into the public sector,” added Mr Caton.

“People who stand nose-to-nose with multiple murderers are not going to run away from the Government when they are trying to flog our jobs from under us.”

John Gummer, the Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, said: “What are the terms of these proposals? Is the Government putting in improved conditions or washing their hands of their responsibility?

“My own view is that there is a great deal of improvement to be made at Warren Hill and I shall be looking extremely carefully at this.”

Warren Hill jail has an operational capacity of 220, with up to 30 offenders housed in a secure unit, Carlford, for teenage murderers and those serving very long sentences. It employs 109 prison officers and total staff numbers are about 200.

A spokeswoman for the Prison Service said of the proposal: “This is one of the options we are considering, but nothing has been decided yet.

“We do not give a running commentary on policy and an announcement will be made in due course.”

jonathan.barnes@eadt.co.uk

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