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BBC Wales's Caroline Evans
"The latest report is broadly complementary"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 07:50 GMT
Prison responds to critics
Sir David Ramsbotham, Chief Inspector of Prisons
Sir David's report will be a boost for Parc Prison
Wales's first privately run prison, which was beset with difficulties after it opened in 1997, has been praised for taking great steps to improve standards.

Owners security firm Securicor has been congratulated for measures taken to transform Parc Prison at Bridgend, south Wales.

Parc was criticised in a prison inspectorate report two years ago when it emerged a racist group with links to the Ku Klux Klan were virtually running an entire wing and management had to avoid housing black prisoners there.

But in his latest report the Chief Inspector of Prisons Sir David Ramsbotham,applauded the jail for being well managed and for addressing criticisms made after his last inspection.

Parc Prison, Bridgend
Parc Prison: Great improvements since last report
Parc's director Ray Walford welcomed the report.

"The prison service is more experienced in managing contracts, we have a very strong senior management team and the staff have matured in their experience level," he said.

The report will help the case of supporters of privately-run jails as it suggests the policy can show excellent results.

But the HMIP inspection is unlikely to convince opponents.

They believe that strong commercial pressures could result in worse conditions for inmates in the long-term.

The switch to private firms profiting from the penal system has also drawn criticism from some quarters.

Sir David said Parc Prison had gone on to develop very good systems to deal with sex offenders and drug addicts and to minimise suicides and bullying among its 835 inmates.

The prison service is more experienced in managing contracts, we have a very strong senior management team and the staff have matured in their experience level

Parc Director Ray Walford
The 82m prison - which has suffered a number of high profile problems and suicides by inmates - had "matured and progressed", said the report.

Chief executive of ex-offenders' charity Unlock, Mark Leech, said: "I don't care whose name is above the prison gate - it is what happens to people who live and work on the other side that I'm concerned about.

"What Securicor have done at Parc, unlike the public sector jails, is listen to what Sir David has said and act on it."

Anti-bullying schemes

But national chairman of the Prison Officers' Association Mark Healy said the days of prison privatisation were numbered.

He said the previous two market testing schemes had resulted in private jails coming back into the public sector.

"If Parc was put up tomorrow I'm sure it too would come back into the public sector," he said.

The latest visit by inspectors, which took place in September, found there was a "stable and secure environment" and anti-bullying schemes were in action throughout the jail.

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