G4S Accused Of Shocking Prisoner Abuse

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Staff at one of South Africa’s most dangerous prisons, run by British firm G4S, have been accused of “shocking” abuses and of losing control.

The South African government has temporarily taken over the running of Mangaung prison from G4S and launched an official investigation.

It comes after inmates claimed they had been subjected to electric shocks and forced injections.

G4S says it is investigating the allegations.

The BBC has obtained leaked footage (above) filmed inside the high security prison, in which one can hear the click of electrified shields, and shrieking. It also shows a prisoner resisting a medication.

Researchers at the Wits Justice Project at Wits University in Johannesburg say they have collected accounts of electric shocks and beatings from almost 30 prisoners during a year-long investigation.

“Some said they would pass out when the shocks became too intense,” said Ruth Hopkins, a journalist with the Wits Justice Project.

She said inmates also complained about suffering broken limbs and other serious injuries.

One former prisoner told the BBC electric shocks were used as “torture”, while a sacked security guard said water was thrown over inmates to increase the impact of the charge.

A lawyer for some of the prisoners has condemned a culture of impunity amongst prison staff, according to the BBC’s Africa correspondent Andrew Harding.

G4S has blamed an upsurge of violence at the prison on a labour dispute, our correspondent adds. More than 300 guards there were sacked this month after going on an unofficial strike.

Nontsikelelo Jolingana, the acting national commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, told the BBC her department had launched a formal investigation into the claims of abuse.

The South African prison authorities announced last month they were temporarily taking over the running of the prison near Bloemfontein, in the central Free State province, after the private security contractor “lost effective control of the facility”.

Andy Baker, regional president of G4S for Africa, said administering and prescribing injections was not the domain of G4S staff, but of independent medical staff.

When asked about allegations of electric shocking and beatings, he told the BBC there had “never been an abuse of this type or nature” to his knowledge.

In a statement to the BBC, G4S said while the video could not be verified, the company “takes such allegations very seriously and will be launching our own investigations into the matter”.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisonrs in England and Wales described the allegations as ‘deeply worrying’.

He said: “If true then it is vital that people responsible are charged and stand trial over these deeply worrying allegations – but its important also to remain focused and not allow emotion to cloud the issue.

“The South African government has taken back control of the prison from G4S which is what I believe they should be doing in this country in relation to HMP Oakwood – which seems to be in complete disarray.”

Scandal-Hit Serco Chief Resigns

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Serco chief executive Christopher Hyman has resigned, the scandal-hit services company has announced.

Mr Hyman quit as the firm attempted to rebuild its relationship with the Government following controversies over its handling of key contracts.

He said: “I have always put the interests of Serco first. At this time, nothing is more important to me than rebuilding the relationship with our UK Government customer.

“In recent weeks it has become clear to me that the best way for the company to move forward is for me to step back. I have been fortunate enough to have had the privilege of working at a great company with extremely talented people. I wish everyone at Serco the very best for the future.”

The firm faces investigation after the Government was overcharged millions of pounds for electronically tagging criminals and there are also allegations of potentially fraudulent behaviour in the management of its £285 million prison escorting contract.

Last month the Government handed material to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in relation to the security giant over the tagging scandal.

It emerged previously that Serco and rival G4S overcharged the Government by tens of millions of pounds for electronically tagging criminals – including for monitoring dead offenders.

G4S refused to co-operate with an audit and was referred to the SFO immediately, while Serco allowed a further forensic audit to take place.

In the course of the audit, the Ministry of Justice provided material to the SFO in relation to Serco’s conduct under the electronic monitoring contracts.

An audit by big four accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, launched in May, revealed that overcharging began at least as far back as the start of the current contracts in 2005 – but could have dated as far back as the previous contracts let in 1999.

Auditors discovered that the firms had charged the Government for tagging offenders who were back in prison, had had their tags removed, had left the country or had never been tagged in the first place but had been returned to court.

The shock revelations prompted Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to launch a Government-wide review of all contracts held by Serco and G4S.

In August this year police were called in to investigate fresh allegations, in relation to the prison escorting contract.

Serco employees allegedly recorded prisoners as having been delivered ready for court – a key performance measure for the contract – when in fact they were not, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

A Government spokesman said today’s announcement by Serco was a “positive move”.

He said: “The Government will take full account of all the changes Serco have made today. Whilst it is early days in their programme of renewal, this is a positive move by Serco and a step forward.

“In July the Justice Secretary announced that the Cabinet Office would lead a review of Government contracts held by G4S and Serco. That review is ongoing and will ensure Government’s contractual arrangements are robust and taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly, in a vibrant, competitive market for public services.”

Ed Casey, who led the firm’s Americas division, has been appointed acting group CEO but Serco’s board “believes it is appropriate to look outside of the business for a new group CEO”.

In addition to Mr Hyman’s departure, the company announced that its UK and Europe division would be split into two, with one part focused on dealings with Whitehall and the other on activities in the wider public sector.

The firm also announced measures to strengthen contract-level governance and transparency, the creation of a board corporate responsibility committee, formal ethics committees in the company’s divisions and full-time ethics officers.

Alastair Lyons, Serco’s non-executive chairman, said: “The decisive and comprehensive actions we have set out today, alongside the programme already under way, should leave no-one in any doubt about how seriously Serco takes these issues and our commitment to rebuild the confidence of our UK Government customer.

“Our focus now is on implementing these important changes that redefine the way in which we engage. We see an opportunity to take a substantial step forward in public sector outsourcing through an open, transparent approach to business with our customers based upon mutual confidence.”

G4S PRISON STAFF ATTACKED

A difficult, violent and unpredictable prisoner smashed a television set in his cell and attacked four prison officers with shards of the broken glass, a union has said.

The inmate burst through his cell door on the healthcare wing of the G4S-run BirminghamPrison yesterday, attacking three staff who were serving his lunch and those that came to their aid, the Prison Officers Association (POA) said.

All four staff were taken to hospital for treatment, with two suffering serious cuts and one remaining in hospital for surgery on his arm, the POA’s Brian Clarke told BBC News.

“A very difficult, violent, and unpredictable prisoner was being served his midday meal at his door,” Mr Clarke said.

“He burst through that door and assaulted three members of staff with shards of broken glass.

“He also assaulted a fourth member of staff who came to their assistance and fought violently with the other staff who came along afterwards.”

Mr Clarke added: “A television set had been smashed in his cell in a moment of random violence sometime earlier in the day.

“We believe it had been removed but we suspect that the prisoner may have hidden shards of glass in his cell or on his person.”

But he also told BBC News the category B Victorian prison – which can hold 1,450 inmates and was taken over by G4S, the firm at the centre of the Olympics security shambles, last year – was “staffed appropriately for a very, very difficult, very, very violent, and unpredictable prisoner”.

“This was an unprovoked, unpredicted offence,” he added.

News of the attack by the prisoner, who was on remand, emerged as the firm was told it will lose its contract to run the Wolds prison in East Yorkshire from next year and was unsuccessful in its bid to run other jails.

A G4S spokesman said: “G4S has confirmed that four members of staff were injured during an incident at the prison yesterday morning.

“The staff, all members of the prison’s healthcare unit, were wounded in an altercation with a prisoner on remand, with two staff receiving serious lacerations.

“All staff were transferred to local hospitals for treatment. The prisoner has been contained.”

He went on: “The safety and welfare of our staff and those in our care is our utmost priority, and we have launched an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding this attack.

“Our thoughts are with our staff at this time.”

West Midlands Police said it could not confirm reports that broken glass was used to assault the prison officers, two of whom remain in hospital in a stable condition.

Detective Inspector Justin Spanner, from Force CID, said: “Police were called by the ambulance service at 12.48pm yesterday to a report of four prison officers being assaulted at HMP Birmingham.

“Initial inquiries suggest that the four were injured by an improvised weapon.

“Detectives have launched an investigation into the assault and we are working closely with the prison.”

Police said a prisoner at the jail in the Winson Green area has been transferred to a mental health facility while inquiries continue.

G4S STRIPPED OF PRISON CONTRACT

 

The firm at the centre of the Olympics security shambles has been stripped of its responsibilities for running Britain’s first private jail.

G4S, which failed to provide enough guards for the London 2012 games, will stop running the Wolds prison in East Yorkshire, which will return to the public sector from next year, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

The firm, which also lost the other prison contracts it was bidding for, saw its shares plummet more than 3%, making it the second biggest faller on the FTSE 100 Index with more than £100 million wiped from its value.

But in a surprise move, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling also announced a new approach to prison privatisation.

Private firms will be brought in to all public prisons to run maintenance, resettlement and possibly catering in a move which could save up to £450 million over the next six years.

It amounts to the end of competition for prison management between the public and private sector for the time being, the Reform think-tank said.

Andrew Haldenby, its director, said: “This is a dramatic U-turn which calls into question the Government’s whole approach to improving public services.

“Competition has improved the prisons environment for both prisoners and staff.

“It has worked successfully for two decades under successive governments.”

Mr Grayling said the new approach would “lead to better value for the tax-payer, linked to more effective services to reduce reoffending”.

“The cost of running our prisons is too high and must be reduced,” he said.

“We can do this by being more innovative and efficient, and without compromising public safety.”

But he insisted the move “does not rule out further prison-by-prison competitions in the future”.

Ministers also announced that competitions to run Northumberland prison, an amalgamation of Acklington and Castington jails, and a trio of South Yorkshire jails – Lindholme, Hatfield and Moorland – will now move to the final stage, with the two contracts likely to be awarded to either Sodexo, Serco or MTC/Amey next spring.

Their bids “produced a compelling package of reforms for delivering cost reduction, improvements to regimes and a working prisons model in these prisons”, the MoJ said.

But this was not the case for the Wolds prison in East Yorkshire, which is currently run by G4S; Coldingley prison in Surrey; Onley in Northamptonshire, or Durham jail, the ministry added.

The Wolds prison, a category C training prison holding up to 395 men, has been run by G4S since it opened in 1992, but will return to the public sector next July.

The move comes after inspectors raised concerns over “the availability of drugs, a lack of staff confidence in confronting poor behaviour, weaknesses in the promotion of diversity and limited work and training provision”.

A G4S spokeswoman said she was “disappointed” by the announcements.

“Our performance across all six prisons we run has been to a high standard with every aspect of performance either meeting or exceeding the key performance indicators applied by the MoJ,” she added.

Ministers denied the decision had anything to do with the company’s failures in the Olympics security contract this summer.

“We’ve assessed all of these bids on their merits and not on the basis of who is making the bid,” prisons minister Jeremy Wright told BBC News.

“This is a consideration we’ve made entirely aside from what happened to G4S at the Olympics.”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “On the evidence of deteriorating conditions at the Wolds, Britain’s first private jail, it looks like trusting G4S to run theprison was a risk too far for justice ministers.”

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, added the Government’s decision to hand over prisons to the private sector was “a mistake of Olympic proportions”.

“The Government will seek to deflect criticism of its prison privatisation programme by excluding G4S from the next stage of the bidding process, but the principle of awarding lucrative contracts to private companies running prisons on the cheap remains unchallenged,” she said.

“Something as important as taking away someone’s freedom should only be done by the state, answerable to taxpayers, rather than by international private security firms, answerable only to their shareholders.”

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, added it was “morally reprehensible that companies are profiting from locking people up”.

HMP OAKWOOD – BRITAIN’S NEWEST 1600-PLACE JAIL – HAS ONLY 45 INMATES BECAUSE ITS BREAKING DOWN

CONVERSE EXCLUSIVE!

Britain’s newest jail, the £150 million HMP Oakwood at Wolverhampton in the West Midlands is beginning to break down just four weeks after it was opened.

Sources at the jail told Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales that a month after it opened the 1600-place prison still has only 45 prisoners and its systems have already broken down.

Mark Leech, Editor of Converse said: “We are getting many letters from prisoners at Ryehill Prison near Rugby, which like HMP Oakwood is owned and operated by private prisons company G4S, who having been told they were going to be transferred to Oakwood have now been told the move is off and they have been shunted to other prisons around the region because of systems failures at the new jail.

“Sources at the prison have told us that the electrics are a mess, every time they switch on the lights the system trips off, the showers in each cell keep coming on automatically even though no one is locked in them, and as a result of the water and power failures food for the prison is being brought in from a private contractor instead of being cooked in the £7 million state-of-the-art kitchen – staff at the prison have told me its a shambles.”

The jail hit the headlines last month when it was revealed that sex offenders at the prison would be allowed out on local leave, a fact which had been hidden from residents.

No-one at HMP Oakwood was available for comment.

NEW DIRECTOR FOR NEW HMP OAKWOOD openING NEXT MONTH

STEVE HOLLAND

G4S have announced that one of Britain’s largest – and the newest – prisons will be called HMP Oakwood when it opens in Wolverhampton next month.

The contract to operate the prison – previously referred to only as ‘Featherstone 2’ –  was awarded to G4S last year by the Ministry of Justice.

HMP Oakwood is named after an oak tree  – the so-called ‘Royal Oak’  – thought to have been used by King Charles II to hide from Cromwell’s troops, in nearby Boscobel Wood.

Located next to the existing HMP Featherstone and HMP Brinsford near Wolverhampton, HMP Oakwood will be one of the largest prisons in England and Wales, providing places for up to 1,605 Category C male prisoners.

The first prisoners will be accepted next April, and the prison is expected to be at full capacity by next autumn.

Along with the new name, G4S has also named Steve Holland, former Governor of HMP & YOI Portland  as the new Director (equivalent to a Governor in the public sector) of HMP Oakwood.

Steve brings over 20 years of experience in the Prison Service, from his days as a prison officer at HMP Liverpool in 1991, to positions including Governor of HMP Dorchester, Deputy Governor of HMP Blakenhurst, Head of Residence at Styal Women’s Prison, Head of Residence at HMP Long Lartin and Head of Security at HMP Risley.  Prior to his time in the prison service, Steve served as a police officer for almost 15 years in both Greater Manchester and Ontario, Canada.

Steve Holland said:

“This is the most exciting role I can imagine and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to lead this project”.

Jerry Petherick, Managing Director, Custodial & Detention Services, G4S said:

“We are delighted that Steve has accepted the position of Director at HMP Oakwood. He has a wealth of experience that he brings to the role and we wish him every success.”