BBC NEWS
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: In Depth: ppp  
News Front Page
World
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Education
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
CBBC News
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
ppp Friday, 27 September, 2002, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Prison officer's view
Ken Harris graduatied as a prison office from UKDS
Ken Harris graduatied as a prison office from UKDS

Ken Harris is in a unique position to judge how privatised prisons work.

He is a senior prison officer at Blakenhurst Prison, in Worcestershire.

Ken Harris (left) with his best mate
Ken Harris (left) with his best mate
Until last year it was a privately managed prison. But the operator, UK Detention Services, lost the contract to an in-house bid from the Prison Service.

So Ken, who is 37, now finds himself part of the public sector, and is taking stock of the changes.

New job

It was in 1993, after being made redundant by an engineering company, that he applied for a job at Blakenhurst, then newly built and awaiting its first prisoners.

"We were described as a can-do jail," he recalls.

"And for the prisoners it has been a brilliant jail. The food is good, the visiting hours are good, and they have plenty of time out of their cells. There is a gymnasium, lots of education and training programmes, and the prisoners have 24-hour health care.

"From the start, everything seemed to be geared up to the prisoners. Under the terms of their contract to run the prison, the company were liable to massive fines if they didn't meet the targets set under the Key Performance Indicators.

Staff secondary

"Unfortunately this was to the detriment of the staff - the prison officers were secondary.

"The prison was run at a minimum staffing level to keep costs down, and wages were also lower than the public sector. That's why they got the contract, because salaries made up the biggest part of the contract.

"There was a massive gulf between the directors and the rest of the staff. They were paid far more than prison governors in the public sector, and they got big bonuses, company cars and private health care.

"We were told that's the way it was, and we could like it or lump it. I heard one person say that if a trade union got into the place it would be over his dead body."

Ken says that the company did eventually reach an agreement with the Prison Service Union to represent staff. As a result, he says, they won a 4.2 per cent pay rise after several years when some employees had no increase at all.

Brighter future

Even so, staff at Blakenhurst were still paid substantially less than prison officers in state run jails, he says, and many only increased their earnings by working long hours of overtime.

Last year, the management of Blakenhurst was handed over to a team from the Prison Service. Ken says that for the staff it means a proper pay structure and the chance for career progression.

"Nobody will be worse off in the public sector, in fact some of our staff will be earning thousands more," he says.

"I don't have a problem with the private sector running prisons. The companies have shown they can manage the jails extremely well, and the prisoners benefit - no question.

"But the public sector treats staff far better, with more respect, and I honestly think the future is brighter."


Key stories

Background

Case studies

From the grassroots

CLICKABLE GUIDE
Links to more ppp stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more ppp stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes