(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 17, 2016 prisoner transport vans arrive and depart from the entrance to HMP Birmingham in Winson Green, Birmingham, central England. - The British government on August 20, 2018 took back control of HMP Birmingham from private security company G4S, following a damning inspection that found
© Oli Scarff/AFP

As a specialist in the field, I found your editorial “Outsourcing of UK jails needs to be rethought” (April 9) difficult to align with the facts. That the private sector sharply reduced costs in the 1990s and 2000s while improving performance is documented by the National Audit Office and others. The Institute of Criminology at Cambridge has documented that G4S greatly improved performance at Birmingham in the first years of its operation, and that private sector prisons generally developed a more respectful attitude to prisoners. That the current crisis in prisons is due to the public sector cutting costs too low is attested by the chief inspector and others.

G4S did not build its own facilities at Oakwood, it was built by the public sector, its operation then contracted out separately. Oakwood had teething problems — most new prisons do (including the public sector at Berwyn, as you recently revealed). The latest inspection report is very good.

Finally, I am also astonished to read in the Financial Times, of all places, that where the private sector pays less than the public sector “this raises questions about the suitability, experience and morale of the personnel”.

Julian Le Vay
Oxford, UK

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