Monday 4 December 2006

Profiteering from Prisons is Immoral and a Privatisation Too Far.

I have been on the campaign trail for three days meeting members of the party and trade unions in Sheffield, Leeds and Blyth in Northumberland. In meeting after meeting the same concerns are raised about the direction of Government policy. One of the key worries expressed is the Government's obsession with privatisation.

Members quote example after example as they share their experience of what privatisation, PFI and outsourcing are like on the ground. It is the same story of cuts in the wages and conditions of the workforce and cuts in service for the people using the service.

Sometimes though you come across a Government privatisation policy proposal which politically goes beyond anything you ever imagined.

When the Guardian revealed that the Government was actually considering a proposal for members of the public to be offered shares in new prisons under a "buy to let" scheme even I was astounded at how far New Labour had travelled from basic decency.

The scheme is meant to be attractive to small investors because it is predicated on a dividend from rental income being assured by rising prison numbers.

I share a distaste for those who seek to profit from the incarceration of fellow human beings with Jack Straw, who in opposition described as immoral the process of earning income from the Tory's policy of privatising prisons.

In the light of the Harmondsworth experience I would also expect a responsible government to review the whole role of the private sector in prisons and to reject any further attempts to profiteer from the misfortune of those who are imprisoned.