A photograph of a prison inmate purportedly taking a selfie photograph next to a slumbering G4S prison guard has been released on twitter this morning. Thanks to the wonders of the web, a kind user traced this image back to what we think was the original, which was shared on instagram of a student mocking a sleeping campus security guard. But while we wipe away the tears of laughter, it’s worth us reminding you why G4S incompetence is no laughing matter.
Justice had Been Outsourced to G4S
G4S currently enjoys more than £1bn in contracts with the UK government. The Ministry of Justice, the Department of Work and Pensions, The Department of Health, the Department of Education, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office all contract out services to G4S.
The list of G4S infrastructure is eye watering:
G4S own and run large section of the police force, including 30 custody suites, 500 cells, a national database of 30,000 former police officers & staff contracted back to cover resourcing gaps, and large portions of the forensic service
Since the early 90’s governments have contracted out the build and management of prisons to the private sector. At present, there are fourteen such prisons out of 139 prisons in the UK. G4S now run 6 of Her Majesty’s Prisons, including HMP Altcourse which was the country’s first PFI prison, yielding even greater profits for G4S.
G4S pioneered the ‘Working Prison’ where inmates work a 40 hour week for next to nothing for private corporations such as engineering firm, Norpro.
G4S run prison transport services & manned security.
They also design and build monitoring services and sell them back to government.
G4S run two Immigration Removal Centres – these are effectively prisons in which to hold migrant families and individuals ahead of deportation.
G4S also run two regions of the UKBA’s COMPASS contract to provide accommodation for immigrants/asylum seekers.
The firm also operate children’s services within the justice system, running three purpose built ‘secure training centres’ managed on behalf of the Youth Justice Board, and seven specially designed residential children’s homes for children with severe emotional and behavioural problems.
G4S: A Litany of Failure
G4S won the £284m contract to secure the Games in March 2011. Later, the government was forced to call in the armed forces to secure the London 2012 games after G4S announced a huge shortfall in their required staff numbers just weeks before the event.
The Death of Jimmy Mubenga
46 year old Jimmy Mubenga was deported by G4S guards in October 2011, yet before the plane even left the tarmac at Heathrow – Mubenga was dead.
Twenty one passengers and crew on the plane report hearing Mubenga repeatedly cry for help and that he could not breathe while several G4S guards applied aggressive methods of restraint – including pressing his head down below the level of tray on the back of the seat opposite for 10 minutes; known to carry a risk of asphyxia. Paramedics were called after Mubenga stopped breathing, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Stuart Tribelnig, the Senior Detainee Custody Officer in charge of Mubenga’s deportation is a former heavy goods driver. He became a deportation custody officer for G4S after a four-week training course in 2007. He was in charge of the other G4S security guards during Mubenga’s deportation. Whilst on trial this week he was made to read out a string of racist jokes that he had texted to fellow G4S deportation guards.
This is just the tip of the iceberg – the independent report into G4S border security guards makes shocking reading. The Home Office response to these issues was to castigate the doctors and lawyers who had brought the allegations to light, accusing them of “seeking to damage the reputation of our contractors”.
The Overcharging for Electronic Tagging
Private security firms G4S and Serco have over charged tens of millions of pounds for electronic tagging services provided to the Ministry of Justice, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) confirms. G4S has offered the government £24.1m in credit notes ahead of their appearance before the Public Accounts Committee. MoJ spending on electronic tagging has soared from the original £107m contract offered to G4S to £700m (including Serco) in 2012. The NAO report on the matter revealed over charging on an industrial scale. The private security firms have been charging for services never rendered, for the same work several times over, and for long periods (years) after electronic tagging had ceased.
Slum Asylum Housing
In 2011, G4S were awarded a £620m contract by government to provide housing for asylum seekers. G4S subcontracted this out to a network of smaller firms, and the results were disastrous. A recent Parliamentary Inquiry found that the firms has repeatedly failed to provide housing fit for human habitation.
Activist researcher John Grayson, who has supported tenants suffering these dreadful conditions to hold their slum landlords to account said:
“G4S is one of the companies responsible for what shadow minister of Immigration Chris Bryant described as ‘hideous conditions’ in asylum housing. G4S subcontractors have been exposed meting out punishment by harassing women who speak out against these conditions…. (including) Landlords abusing and punishing their tenants”
In fact, almost every service that G4S has been given to run has ended up costing us more, measured in pounds sterling or human suffering. Yet the government is determined to hand over ever more of our most critical public services into their unworthy hands
G4S has been refusing to acknowledge a riot among prisoners at it’s HMP Oakwood facility.
According to a report in today’s Guardian:
The BBC reported that on 5 January a special squad of prison officers was bought in to break up what the firm had previously claimed was only a “concerted incidence of indiscipline” at the Wolverhampton prison.
An unnamed prison officer involved in the operation told The Report on Radio 4 that prisoners had taken over an entire wing of the prison in what he said was a “full-scale riot”.
The state of the art HMP Oakwood facility was opened in April 2012 and can hold up to 1,600 prisoners. The G4S website for the prison claims “At HMP Oakwood we aim to inspire, motivate and guide prisoners to become the best they can be. We offer state of the art facilities, full time employment, programmes and access to Physical Health and Wellbeing initiatives.”
On the very first visit by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons however, HMP Oakwood was found sadly lacking in all areas except the shiny new building. The main issues the report find include:
- High drug usage and poor management of drug supply and demand
- Health provision “very poor” and “chaotic” management of medication
- Standards of teaching were poor
- Too many prisoners felt unsafe and levels of violence and victimisation were high
- Levels of self-harm were also high
- Frustration common among inmates who said they routinely resorted to the complaints system to address issues
- The care needs of some prisoners with disabilities were not met
- Access to basic cleaning and toiletry items was poor, with one obese inmate saying he had insufficient clothing to enable him to leave his cell during association time
- Amount of time spent out of cells was good for employed inmates, but not for those unemployed
- Prison staff were often inexperienced and failed to deal with poor behaviour in an attempt to avoid confrontation
- Inspectors said staff were sometimes “passive and compliant, almost to the point of collusion”
- the prison urgently needed to decide how it was going to address the offending behaviour risks of its near 300 sex offenders.
HMP Oakwood is one of five G4S ‘Working Prisons’ in England which utilise underpaid prisoner labour for big business. Inmates earn as little as £10 for working a 40 hour week, £237.60 less expensive than employing someone on the minimum wage. Given that poverty and crime are so interconnected – we face the event of people losing their jobs, turning to crime to survive and being incarcerated, only to perform the same job for next to nothing as a prison worker.
HMP Oakwood demonstrates the private sector’s focus to turn prisoners into profit making resources, rather than protect their safety and rehabilitate them into society.
G4S Don’t Pay their Taxes!
A recent report by the Public Accounts Committee revealed that G4S paid no corporation tax in the last financial year, despite conducting more than £1bn worth of work for the public sector. Labour MP Margaret Hodge, Chair of the PAC commented:
“Everyone has a duty to pay their fair share in tax, but there is something particularly galling about the idea of company who gets its income from the public purse not putting its rightful contribution back in.”
Enough is Enough
This latest debacle is more proof, if it were needed, that we are living under a government whose primary purpose is to serve its corporate benefactors, not the public which grant it power. For such corporations, the contracts keep coming, the good times keep rolling, and the tax payer picks up the bill.
Whether it’s profiteering from prison labour while abandoning pastoral care of prisoners, brutalising immigrants, fleecing the taxpayer with fraudulent charges or seeking to profit from rape – there appears no depth to which the private sector will plummet. Meanwhile, successive UK governments have continued the programme of privatisation, in spite of the mountain of evidence that such moves result in a higher financial, human and social cost. Why? The only answer can be corruption. Personal and political corruption that creates a dangerous cycle of personal and political reward for doing the wrong thing. So, this is not a situation that is going to change without intervention. And that intervention needs to come from the people paying the price. Us.