The government has taken direct control of a G4S-run prison after inspectors said it was “falling into a state of crisis”.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it would temporarily take direct control of Birmingham Prison and “inject fresh leadership” into the institution to improve the situation.
The decision came after the chief inspector of prisons wrote to the department to say the prison was in “an appalling state” and that there had been an “abject failure of contract management and delivery”.
In the letter Peter Clarke, chief inspector of prisons, said an unannounced inspection found violence with “near impunity”, widespread problems with hygiene including cockroaches, rat droppings and bloodstains, and staff that were under-trained and lacked control.
HMP Birmingham, which was the site of a major prison riot in 2016, also received a critical review from the inspectorate in 2017.
Clarke said there had been a “dramatic deterioration” in the 18 months since the last inspection and added: “There has clearly been an abject failure of contract management and delivery.
“We were told about ‘improvement notices’, ‘improvement plans’ and ‘outstanding issues’ notices. G4S has also recruited a task force to help the management team deliver improvements, though this is a very recent development,” he said.
“In my view, however, there can be little hope that matters will improve until there has been a thorough and independent assessment of how and why the contract between government and G4S has failed. Such an assessment is urgently needed if any progress is to be made.”
He added: “The inertia that seems to have gripped both those monitoring the contract and delivering it on the ground has led to one of Britain’s leading jails slipping into a state of crisis.”
MoJ said the decision to take control of the prison was made after “an extended period” working with G4S to improve standards at the prison.
Prisons minister Rory Stewart said the “step in” would allow the government to provide the prison with additional resources while “insulating the taxpayer from the inevitable cost this entails”. He added the UK did have “good, privately-run prisons across the country”.
Jerry Petherick, managing director of G4S Custody & Detention Services, said: “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.”
HM Prisons and Probation Services will directly manage the prison for at least six months, however the period could be extended if, by the end of it, ministers do not feel G4S has made enough progress.
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