More sexual assaults and self harm in privately-run prisons, UK government data shows
British prisons run by private companies account for a higher proportion of fighting, sexual assaults, drug-taking, self-harming, hunger strikes, and prisoner escapes than public-sector prisons, according to analysis by The Independent on Sunday.
The newspaper examined figures released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) which gave a snapshot of incidents in all jails between January and June last year.
It found that, while Britain’s 14 private prisons hold just 18% of the country’s prisoners, they accounted for 23% of assaults in the first six months of 2014 alone and one in four prisoners’ escapes.
The privately-run jails also accounted for more than a third of all drug seizures, and 32% of ‘deliberate self-harm’ incidents involving prisoners.
Around a third of all cases of vandalism by prisoners and hunger strikes occurred in private prisons, and 28% of rooftop protests took place in private facilities.
The statistics do not pick out incidents such as bomb threats and attempted escapes. Intead, these are included in a category called ‘miscellaneous’ incidents.
Of these, more than 1,200 (around 28%) took place in private jails.
The Independent also reports that the latest annual performance ratings issued by the National Offender Management Service show that not one privately-run prison managed to score an ‘exceptional performance’ rating.
However, more than one in 10 of the publicly-run prisons were judged to be in this category.
The data is based on 27 indicators.
The MoJ has dismissed the findings. A spokesperson for the MoJ said: “It is wrong to make comparisons between establishments, whether public or private sector, based on just a partial view of the data. It is totally misleading, and does not take into account the different circumstances in each prison.
“We have a comprehensive system for measuring prison performance, and manage private prison contracts to get the best performance for the taxpayer. Public- and private-sector prisons have comparable performance levels.”