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Prisoners revolt in Rye Hill, Warwickshire

transmitter | 27.06.2007 15:55 | Repression | Birmingham

A group of prisoners at a privately run jail near Rugby 'went wild' on Monday, June 25th. The inmates took control of one wing at the Rye Hill prison, which is run by GSL, for almost two hours in the afternoon. A team of specially trained and equipped staff were then brought in and regained control of the wing. A spokesman for GSL said that, despite some damage at the prison, there were "no injuries to either staff or inmates".

HMP Rye Hill is situated in the village of Willougby, near Rugby, in Warwickshire. Construction of the Private Finance Initiative prison began in April 1999, and the facility opened in January 2001. Rye Hill is one of a growing number of PFI prisons in the country intended to help deal with a rising prison population. It is run by the privately owned British company GSL (formerly Group 4), which has a multi-million pound empire stretching from the south of England to South Africa and southern Australia. Besides Rye Hill, GSL, who pioneered contracting out the management of prisons to the private sector, also run Altcourse in Liverpool (PFI) and Wolds in East Yorkshire, which was the first contract for a privately managed prison in England in 1992. GSL also run 4 out of 10 immigration detention centres in the UK (Dungavel, Oakington, Tinsley House and Yarl's Wood).

Rye Hill holds up to 660 adult male Category B sentenced prisoners, which includes 150 vulnerable prisoners. The latter are supposed to be kept in a purpose-designed Vulnerable Prisoner Unit, with its own regime and facilities. The sentence requirement for HMP Rye Hill is more than 4 years, with 18 months left to serve.

Earlier this year, A Panorama undercover reporter unearthed evidence of intimidation and corruption at Rye Hill [transcript of Life Behind Bars]. In the past four years, Rye Hill has received two damning reports [ 1 | 2 ] by HM's Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers, who described the prison as "extremely volatile".



Still no evidence on recidivism rates

27.06.2007 16:56

After 12 years, there is still no evidence that private prisons in England and Wales contribute to any reduction in prisoners’ re-offending rates.

(Excerpts from the Prison Privatisation Report, No. 64, September 2004, published by the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), University of Greenwich, London, England.

In a parliamentary question John McDonnell MP asked the prisons minister how much the reconviction rate has changed since the introduction of the private sector to the prison service. The prisons minister replied that the first private prison opened in 1992 and that “figures for the number and percentage of prisoners reconvicted within two years of discharge from prison are given in Prison Statistics England and Wales, 2002.” (Source: Hansard, 8 June 2004). However, while this report contains a great deal of data it contains nothing about private prisons.

A previous parliamentary question in 2000 on this issue brought the following response from the then prisons minister: “since prisoners may move between privately owned and publicly owned prisons on a number of occasions during their sentence, it is not possible to calculate the reoffending rates...” (Source: Hansard, 9 March 2000).

Only one private prison, Dovegate (see below), has the operator’s performance fee related to reducing reoffending rates but only for 200 of the prison’s 800 prisoners (see PPRI #56).

Premier’s Dovegate safe but intake “commercially skewed”

Dovegate prison’s 200 bed theraputic community (TC) was “a very safe place” according to a recent report by the chief inspector of prisons for England and Wales. However, the chief inspector also stated that “it was of concern that selection [of prisoners] was apparently being skewed by commercial imperatives. This was neither appropriate nor fair, and it mitigated against the integrity of therapy...”

The chief inspector, Ann Owers, noted: “... there was a concern that in order to keep up the numbers on the TC required by the prison’s contract - and because the prison service was slow in transferring prisoners in and out, prisoners from Dovegate’s main prison were taking precedence over those from elsewhere on the waiting list. Many of those from the main prison were clearly unsuitable (77 prisoners had been returned since January 2002) ...” This meant that TC places were “not available for more difficult and personality disordered prisoners who might benefit from therapy.”

It was considered that “therapeutic groups with white British majorities are not appropriate to manage all issues of concern to ethnic minorities. The TC needed to raise the profile of race relations and ensure formal recording and investigation of all incidents of a racial nature.”

The Premier Prisons-run unit is based on Grendon, the country’s only publicly operated - and world renown- therapeutic prison. The chief inspector noted that: “it is too early to say whether Dovegate TC will emulate Grendon’s longevity.” There was no inspection of the delivery of therapy itself. However, she found that “there is much to commend both in the therapeutic model and in the way it has been implemented ... some very serious and often extremely difficult offenders are clearly helped to readjust to a level of appropriate and law abiding behaviour while they are in the TC, with every prospect of this learning assisted progress with the remainder of their sentences and, hopefully, on release.”

The chief inspector noted six examples of good practice. There were also 104 recommendations for improvements.

Dovegate’s 600 bed main prison opened in July 2001(see PPRI #58 & 56). The Therapeutic Community opened in November 2001.

(Report on an Announced Inspection of HMP Dovegate 29 March-2 April 2004 by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, July 2004, published 14 September 2004.

Money go round

Bridgend Custodial Services Ltd, the operator of Parc prison at Bridgend, Wales, made a pre-tax profit of £3.94 million for the financial year ended 30 September 2003. Shareholders’ dividends for the year were £2.76million, increased from £2.43million in 2002. The company is a subsidiary of Securicor which is now owned by Group 4.

Sodexho subsidiary UK Detention Services Ltd now has contracts to operate Forest Bank, Bronzefield and a new prison opening at Peterborough in 2005. It also operates Harmondsworth immigration detention centre and two probation hostels. Its pre-tax profit for the year ended 31 August 2003 was £1.95m. Shareholders’ dividends for the year were £1.39m (£1.68m 2002).

Onley Prison Services Ltd is the operating company for Rye Hill prison,Warwickshire. Its pre-tax profit for the year ended 31 December 2003 was £0.7million. These extracts from the then Group 4-owned company’s most recently filed accounts show the web of companies and payments involved in the operation of this PFI contract.

* Under the terms of its original contract dated 23 July 1999 the company is committed to pay fixed and variable fees to GSDL UK Ltd (formerly Group 4 Global Solutions (UK) Ltd), based on the number of prisoner places for the remainder of the contract. Payments in the year ended 31 December 2003 were £9.49 million (2002, £8.82 million).

* Under the terms of the contract dated 23 July 1999, Carillion Construction Ltd a company related to Carillion Private Finance Ltd, the company is committed to index linked payments totaling £4.69 million (1999 index) for capital replacement of life expired equipment over the contract term. Commitments remaining at the balance sheet date index at 31 December 2003 were £5.15 million (2002 £4.97 million).

* In addition to contractual commitments set out above Global Solutions Ltd (formerly Group 4 Falck Global Solutions Ltd) and GSL UK Ltd (formerly Group 4 Falck Global Solutions (UK) Ltd), companies related to GSL Joint Ventures Ltd (formerly Group 4 Falck Joint Ventures Ltd) provided administrative and technical services to the company during the year at a cost of £17,000 (2002 £18,000) for Global Solutions Ltd and £48,000 (2002 £47,000) for GSL UK Ltd. Similar services were also provided by Carillion Construction Ltd, a company related to Carillion Private Finance Ltd at a cost of £39,000 (2002 £79,000).

* At the year end there was £nil payable to Global Solutions Ltd, £943,000 (2002 £889,000) payable to GSL UK Ltd and £nil (2002 £89,000) payable to Carillion Construction Ltd.

* The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of GSL Carillion (Onley) Ltd (formerly Group 4 Carillion (Onley) Ltd) a company which files consolidated accounts in England. Fifty per cent of the share capital of Group 4 Carillion (Onley) Ltd is held by Carillion Private Finance Ltd and fifty per cent of the share capital is held by GSL Joint Ventures Ltd.

(Source: Onley Prison Services Ltd, Notes to the financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2003. See PPRI # 63 & 62 for Group 4's recent deals.)

Failure to meet KPIs

Private prisons in England and Wales failed to meet some contractually agreed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in 2003-2004, according to recent government statistics.

Assaults - six failed to meet their target on preventing serious assaults. The target is for the number of serious assaults against prisoners or staff expressed as a proportion of the prison population. Parc, which had the seventh highest level of serious assaults compared to all prisons in England and Wales, had the highest rate in the private sector. The rate of serious assaults on prisoners or staff that resulted in a positive adjudication was three times higher than the target acceptable under Securicor’s contract. The serious assault rates at Dovegate and Wolds were amongst the highest compared to all prisons in England and Wales.

Purposeful Activity - both Dovegate and Parc were well below their targets for the average number of hours of purposeful activity that they are contractually required to provide per week. Altcourse was the only private prison that met its targets.

Drugs - there were particularly high levels of drug use at Dovegate, Forest Bank and Parc. Altcourse also failed to meet its targets for the rate of positive drug tests. Each prison has to randomly test a proportion of prisoners for drugs every month.

(Source: 2003-04 Outturn and targets by Establishment, HM Prison Service Planning Group, 15 July 2004.)

Restraint inquiry launched

The Howard League for Penal Reform has launched an independent inquiry into the use of strip searching, physical restraint and segregation of children in public and private custodial institutions. This includes children held in privately operated secure training centres (STCs, see PPRI #62, 60, 54, 48, 43, 40, &37).

In April 2004 15 year old Gareth Myatt lost consciousness while being restrained by three staff in Group 4-run Rainsbrook STC. He later died in hospital. As a result of this incident the use of a technique known as the ‘seated double embrace’ has been banned. More recently, Adam Rickwood, 14, died at Premier–run Hassockfield STC.

Official figures have revealed that, between 2000 and 2004, restraint was used 11,087 times on young offenders at the three private secure training centres in England: 4,675 times at Group 4-run Medway; 2,810 at Group 4-run Rainsbrook and 3,602 at Premier Prisons-run Hassockfield. Source: Hansard 24 June 2004.