The Socialist 16 January 2013 |
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Prison closures = more privatisation
On 10 January the closure of seven public sector prisons was announced. Bullwood Hall, Camp Hill, Canterbury, Gloucester, Kingston, Shepton Mallet and Shrewsbury are due to close by 31 March.
This comes after the announcement in November of the privatisation of four more prisons. John Hancock from the executive of the prison officers' union POA spoke to the Socialist.
"To say that these prisons have got to close by 31 March isn't realistic. The staff are very upset and feel let down. But I believe it's privatisation by the back door.
The inmates from the prisons that they are closing are going to have to go somewhere else. Which means overcrowding the rest of the public prisons.
Then if those public prisons get a bad name, the Tories can say "private good, public bad - let's make more private prisons."
I think it's all being driven by privatisation by greedy politicians and their cronies.
It makes a mockery of rehabilitation. The best way of rehabilitating someone in our opinion is to have them in local prisons with staff who know the area. They can then help with things like housing, drug programmes, etc.
If they're in a big prison miles from anywhere they haven't got visits. And when they finish their sentence the staff have to say: "Just go back to where you've come from mate".
Local prisons like Shepton Mallet and Gloucester employ quite a lot of people. Shepton Mallet has 300 staff, 120 of whom are prison officers.
Closure will affect the local economy. There won't be compulsory redundancies among the prison officers but the civilian staff may not be protected. And there's no guarantee about further prison closures.
The POA will put as much pressure as we can on the government to reverse this decision. We fought the Maghaberry prison closure in Northern Ireland and that was reversed. But united action against austerity from all the trade unions is even more important.
And that's why we need to promote the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). I think standing as TUSC candidates could be one way we could get involved in the fight against cuts and privatisation."
Probation privatisation: the crime of the century!
"This act of vandalism destroys 105 years of work. I joined the Probation Service to help reduce crime and protect victims; breaking it up will increase risk, increase cost and ultimately increase crime".
Chas Berry, vice chair of the Probation Officers' union Napo in Kent was responding to the announcement that justice secretary Chris Grayling wants to privatise most work carried out by Napo members and transfer it to the private sector.
"No one is saying we couldn't do more to reduce re-offending, but Grayling's plans will transfer this complex task to multi-national corporations such as G4S, Serco and Sodexo whose main interest is making money.
G4S had to be bailed out at the Olympics but still took the money and they are about to be given another large pay cheque".
Staff at HMP Canterbury were also stunned to learn that the prison is to be one of seven to close across the country.
Kent Federation of Trades Union Councils, said it would offer whatever practical support it could to oppose these plans and help organise those fighting the government's austerity agenda.
Federation secretary Dave Semple said: "My own union, PCS, has members in the prisons and elsewhere in the criminal justice system.
"We are all facing similar attacks on our jobs and our conditions of service and we need to stand together against this attempt to dismantle our public services.
"The prison officers' union (POA) has called upon the TUC to organise coordinated strike action to defeat these attacks and it's about time we made this a reality."