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MP questions ability of G4S to manage security at HMP Oakwood

By Richard Guttridge | Crime | Published:

G4S faces a battle to hang on to Oakwood Prison amid the crisis engulfing HMP Birmingham.

Oakwood Prison

Since the Winson Green jail was taken into government control, questions have been asked about the future of Oakwood, which serves Shropshire and sits near the M54.

MP Emma Reynolds said she was alarmed by the 'appalling situation' at the Winson Green prison and that it raised concerns about the future of HMP Oakwood, near Wolverhampton, which is also run by G4S.

The contractor insisted it was business as usual at the Featherstone jail and the loss of HMP Birmingham would have no impact. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said there were no immediate plans to review other privately-run jails but that all would continue to be monitored.

Ministers acted amid a growing crisis at Winson Green, which was described by Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke as the 'worst prison he had ever been to'. There were 1,147 assaults, including fights, at the jail in 2017, more than any other prison in England and Wales that year, while there was also a large-scale riot involving 600 inmates the previous year.

The Government has taken over HMP Birmingham for at least six months and said it would only hand back control when it was confident G4S was capable of running it.

And Emma Reynolds, MP for Wolverhampton North East, today questioned whether G4S should be allowed to continue running HMP Oakwood, which houses more than 2,000 prisoners.

Star comment:

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The Labour MP said: "Although I welcome the Government's decision to take over Birmingham Prison, the question remains why it has taken them so long to start to get to grips with an appalling situation in which it seems the prisoners, rather than the prison officers, were effectively in charge.

"This is appalling and totally unacceptable. We have to question G4S' capability to manage their prisons including Oakwood."

The running of the Featherstone prison was praised following a recent inspection, although concerns were raised about drugs and attacks on staff. The jail was heavily criticised in 2013 but its performance has since improved and ministers are believed to be satisfied with how it is being run.

The MoJ said prisons run by private contractors are continually monitored.

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A spokesman said: "Performance of all prisons is consistently monitored. Oakwood is performing reasonably well. There are challenges across the prison estate, not just private but also public.

"There are ongoing inspections of the performance of prisons and that is out there in the public domain.

"The indication is G4S managed prisons are performing well on the whole and Birmingham is the exception to this."

A G4S spokeswoman said the Government's decision on Winson Green 'changes nothing at Oakwood'.

G4S was awarded a 15-year contract in 2011 to operate Birmingham Prison.

Prison inspections chief Mr Clarke said there had been an 'abject failure' of contract management and delivery.

Of the 16 privately run jails in the UK, five are run by G4S, including Oakwood and Winson Green.

The Prison Reform Trust warned in July that hard work to improve performance at Oakwood risked being undone if the Government increases the number of inmates being kept there.

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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