03 September 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The Ministry of Justice has taken over HMP Birmingham's prison, reports Herpreet Kaur Grewal.
The government has stated that it will step in and temporarily take over the management of HMP Birmingham by appointing a new governor and providing additional resources for the six-month period.
This follows an extended period during which HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has worked with the operator, G4S, in an attempt to drive up standards at the prison amid serious concerns over safety, security and decency.
But the government said it was clear "without additional support the prison will not be able to make sufficient progress on these pressing issues which have again been highlighted following the recent HMIP inspection".
It stated that G4S accepted that this is the case.
The running of the establishment will be taken over by HMPPS in accordance with the Criminal Justice Act 1991 and as part of the contract with G4S.
However, HMPPS will work with G4S to minimise disruption and reassure staff of a mutual commitment to stabilise the prison.
The immediate steps that will be taken include:
Putting in place one of the prison service's best governors to lead the prison, as well as a strong senior management team;
Allocating experienced HMPPS officers to bolster existing staffing at the prison - an initial 30 extra officers will be deployed; and
Reducing the prison's capacity by 300 places while improvement action is underway.
While HMPPS will run Birmingham for an initial six-month period, this may be extended and the prison will not be handed back "until ministers are satisfied that sufficient progress has been made".
Justice Secretary David Gauke and the prisons minister concluded that "stepping in" is the best way to make immediate impact and begin the necessary improvements.
Prisons Minister Rory Stewart said: "What we have seen at Birmingham is unacceptable and it has become clear that drastic action is required to bring about the improvements we require.
"This 'step in' means that we can provide additional resources to the prison while insulating the taxpayer from the inevitable cost this entails.
"We have good, privately-run prisons across the country and while Birmingham faces its own particular set of challenges, I am absolutely clear that it must start to live up to the standards seen elsewhere.
Jerry Petherick, managing director of G4S Custody & Detention Services, said: "HMP Birmingham is an inner-city remand prison which faces exceptional challenges including increasingly high levels of prisoner violence towards staff and fellow prisoners.
"The well-being and safety of prisoners and prison staff is our key priority and 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."