October 7, 2013 / 11:13 PM / 4 years ago

Conditions at G4S-run UK prison "very concerning" - report

LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters) - A British prison run by security company G4S is failing to provide prisoners basic healthcare and sanitation, and scored below sufficient in all four areas assessed by the independent prisons watchdog.

Britain in July placed under review all of G4S’s government contracts and it faces a possible Serious Fraud Office investigation after an audit showed that it charged for tagging criminals who were either dead, in prison, or had never been tagged in the first place.

The report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons said that prisoners at HMP Oakwood, which has been run by G4S since it opened in April 2012, were unable to access basic cleaning and toiletry items, and received very poor healthcare.

It said many staff were “passive and compliant, almost to the point of collusion”, and 14 percent of inmates reported that they developed a problem with illegal drugs inside the facility.

The prison was insufficient or poor in all four areas of safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement, with many staff deemed to be inexperienced and even compliant.

Jerry Petherick, Managing Director of G4S Custodial and Detention Services, said that the prison had appointed a dedicated taskforce to address problem areas such as drugs.

“As the experience of staff develops, the regime becomes fully embedded and our reporting systems continue to improve, the months ahead will see significant further improvements in performance,” he said.

The Ministry of Justice, led by minister Chris Grayling, has been at the forefront of a drive to put public services in the hands of private firms as a way to cut costs.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said the report was shocking.

“Chris Grayling’s flagship prison has a massive drugs problem, appalling levels of violence with prisoners locked in their cells and is failing to deliver the rehabilitation the public expects.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service, said that he would continue to monitor performance at Oakwood closely in the coming months.

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