The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has taken over the running of HMP Birmingham from private contractor G4S for an initial six-month period.
This follows an extended period during which HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has worked with the operator, G4S, in an attempt to drive up standards at the prison amid serious concerns over safety, security and decency.
A recent inspection found the prison in “an appalling state” with high violence, widespread bullying, squalid living conditions and poor control by fearful staff, making it clear that without additional support the prison will not be able to make sufficient progress on these pressing issues. G4S has said it accepts that this is the case.
The running of the establishment will be taken over by HMPPS from today (20 August) in accordance with the Criminal Justice Act 1991 and as part of the contract with G4S.
The immediate steps that will be taken include:
- putting in place one of the prison service’s best governors to lead the prison, as well as a strong senior management team
- allocating experienced HMPPS officers to bolster existing staffing at the prison; an initial 30 extra officers will be deployed
- reducing the prison’s capacity by 300 places while improvement action is underway
While HMPPS will run Birmingham for an initial six-month period, this may be extended and the prison will not be handed back until ministers are satisfied that sufficient progress has been made.
HMPPS has said it will work closely with G4S to ensure minimal disruption and to reassure staff of its “mutual commitment” to stabilising the prison.
Justice Secretary David Gauke and the Prisons Minister have recently visited the prison and concluded that “stepping in” is the best way to make immediate impact and begin the necessary improvements.
Prisons Minister Rory Stewart said: “What we have seen at Birmingham is unacceptable and it has become clear that drastic action is required to bring about the improvements we require. This ‘step in’ means that we can provide additional resources to the prison while insulating the taxpayer from the inevitable cost this entails.
“We have good, privately-run prisons across the country and while Birmingham faces its own particular set of challenges, I am absolutely clear that it must start to live up to the standards seen elsewhere.”
Jerry Petherick, Managing Director of G4S Custody & Detention Services, said: “HMP Birmingham is an inner-city remand prison which faces exceptional challenges, including increasingly high levels of prisoner violence towards staff and fellow prisoners.
“The wellbeing and safety of prisoners and prison staff is our key priority and we welcome the six-month step-in and the opportunity to work with the Ministry of Justice to urgently address the issues faced at the prison.”
G4S was awarded the 15-year contract to operate the Birmingham prison in 2011.