Two new jails announced by the government are to be privately run, it has emerged, as the role of profit-making prisons comes under increased scrutiny after the crisis at the formerly G4S-operated HMP Birmingham.
In a parliamentary written answer, the prisons minister, Rory Stewart, confirmed that HMP Glen Parva in Leicestershire will be privately run.
The MoJ previously said a new jail – HMP Wellingborough – would be privately run. Both prisons will be built using public capital.
In August, ministers were forced to take the operation of HMP Birmingham away from G4S while public sector officials attempted to restore order to the prison. High levels of violence, drug use and self-harm had prompted the chief inspector of prisons to issue an urgent notification process to the justice secretary. This is the most severe course of action available to the inspector.
The shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, tabled a written question asking if the new prisons would be privately run.
In his response, Stewart said: “As set out on the 26 June at the justice select committee and in the 2017 manifesto, we remain committed to building up to 10,000 modern and decent prison places to replace old, expensive and unsuitable accommodation.
“As the chancellor set out in the budget on 30 October, we intend to build the first two prisons through public capital at Wellingborough, which is due to open in 2021, and Glen Parva, which we expect to open in 2022. We are planning to launch a competition later this year to establish a framework from which the operators of the new prisons will be chosen.
“HM Prison and Probation Service will not take part in the prison competition. We will provide a ‘public sector benchmark’ against which operators’ bids can be assessed and will take on the provider role if bids do not meet quality or value for money thresholds.”
There were 32,559 assault incidents in the 12 months to June, up 20% from the previous year, and 3,951 serious assaults, up 7%. Both of these figures are the highest on record.
Among assaults, there were 9,485 attacks on staff in prisons, up 27%.
In July, the MoJ announced a £30m investment, including £16m to improve conditions for prisoners and staff and £7m on security measures such as airport-style scanners, improved searching techniques and phone-blocking technology.