Monday, 20 August 2018

HMP Birmingham: A case study in failed Tory privatisation mania

In October 2011 HMP Birmingham became the first British operating prison to be fully privatised when the Tory-led government handed operations over to the corporate outsourcing giant G4S.

By 2014 whistleblowers at the prison were reporting widespread violence and drug use, prisoners staying in bed all day, and experienced staff quitting in droves.

In 2016 the prison was rocked by a 14 hour riot involving some 500 prisoners. The Tory government then attempted to bury the report that cited staff shortages as a major factor.

In 2017 the Chief inspector of prisons found 
a violent, dirty, lawless, drug-riddled hovel rated as the worst prison h'd ever inspected.

In 2018 the Ministry of Justice demonstrate the shocking scale of this ideologically driven prison privatisation folly with the emergency state take-over of operations.

Amazingly the privatisation-fixated Tories knew exactly how bad HMP Birmingham was for several year, yet they just sat back and watched it deteriorate rather than admit their ideologically driven prison privatisation agenda was failing.

Even in the days before the emergency take-over they were still delaying because they were busy negotiating "commercially sensitive" contract terms with G4S!

Imagine how badly the contract must have been drafted if the private sector operators can turn a functioning prison into a violent drug-riddled horror show that even the guards are terrified to work in, and still think they've got a leg to stand on to quibble over contract terms when the the government steps in to take over the mess they've created.

Even more amazing is the fact that the Tory government have announced that they plan to hand the prison straight back to G4S after six months!

So G4S take over a functional prison, turn it into an absolute hellpit for the inmates and staff alike, hand it over to the government to clean up at public expense, and then waltz back in six months later to wreck it all over again!

Instead of negotiating over contract terms and then promising to hand the prison back to the failing outsourcing company after just six months, the government should be immediately banning G4S from bidding for any more Ministry of Justice work, calling a moratorium on all justice system privatisations, and announcing a wide-ranging public inquiry into how the prison privatisation agenda went so wrong so quickly.

To anyone with any sense the whole idea of handing prisons over to private companies is absolutely perverse. Only the most fanatical of hard-right neoliberal pro-privatisation freaks could try to argue that the primary function of prisons should be for private companies to generate private profits at the public expense, rather than keeping the public safe from dangerous criminals and rehabilitating lawbreakers so that they can reenter society with the skills and attitude necessary in order to avoid recidivism.

But this is where were at now. The cult of neoliberalism is so embedded within the Westminster political establishment that the majority of MPs and political journalists never criticise the ideologically driven privatisation of prisons, the forensic science service, electronic tagging of prisoners, the probation service, court translation services, or even front line policing. 

Meanwhile the minority of MPs who espouse renationalisation and a preference for not-for-profit public services are continually derided as the dangerous radicals and extremists!

The polling evidence is absolutely clear that the majority of British people are strongly opposed to privatisation mania, but the Westminster political establishment remain stubbornly impervious to the public view that ideologically driven privatisatise everything agenda absolutely stinks.

And that's the problem with the cult of neoliberalism - you can point to as many privatisation failures as you like (HMP Birmingham, collapsed and fraud riddled academy chains, Carillion, the rail privatisation farce, the G4S Olympic security failure, the G4S electronic tagging fraud, the forensic science privatisation calamity, the shambolic privatisation of the probation service, the absurdly inefficient Work Programme, the rip-off water companies, Royal Mail being flogged off at way below its true market value, flogging off the NHS blood supply, and dozens upon dozens of other examples) and you can point to the polling data that says the public hate it, but the neoliberal cultists will simply shrug their shoulders, ignore the evidence, and adopt their arrogant and elitist "we are the enlightened few, and the public are wrong again" stance.

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