Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Privatisation of prisons 'morally repugnant'

Report by Paddy McGuffin in the Morning Star.

The privatisation of the country's prisons would amount to incarceration for profit, the head of the Prison Officers Association has said.

Colin Moses of the POA made an impassioned speech decrying the proposed privatisation of the nation's jails as "morally repugnant," to strong backing by the Trades Union Congress.

Mr Moses stated: "We have spent the last two years looking at public-sector workers being under attack. As a member of the Prison Service I have felt that attack first hand. I have heard people baulk at the idea that they could privatise water but when you talk about privatising prisons you go even further."

He insisted that those prisons currently under private ownership were failing miserably.
"Private-sector prisons are at the bottom of their own league tables. Privatisation has failed throughout western Europe.
"It is touted as being a panacea but there have been no fewer suicides and as many if not more assaults. The goal of private prisons is to smash public-sector unions," Mr Moses stated.

The proposed privatisation would be akin to stepping back in time, he said. "It is about making profit from incarceration and if that is the case we are going back to Victorian times and locking people up for profit and putting debtors in prison. Is that what we are going back to?"

In a direct challenge to the government and Prime Minister, Mr Moses reminded Congress of a comment made by Jack Straw in 1997 in which he described privatisation of the prison system as "morally repugnant."

"What was morally repugnant in 1997 should be morally repugnant today," he argued. "I would like to hear Gordon Brown say stop privatisation now."
The motion was backed by the Civil Service Union PCS. PCS representative Austin Harney said that the privatisation of prisons had been "a catalogue of failure and mismanagement."

He pointed out that the very first example of privatisation in the criminal justice system was transportation to Australia, adding that that had been a disaster.
"Privatisation has been a flawed experiment and nowhere more so than in the criminal justice system."

He concluded by calling on all trade unions in the justice sector to join forces to oppose privatisation - not only of the prison system but also of the courts system, in which many of his members worked.

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