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Saturday, October 17, 1998 Published at 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK


End private prisons - probation officers

The introduction of private jails has been controversial

Probation officers have called on the government to nationalise private prisons and stop more being built.

Delegates at the National Association of Probation Officers annual conference voted unanimously to back the motion after speakers denounced Labour's change of policy in supporting privately-run jails once in power.

Union delegate Mike Guilfoyle told the York conference that Prime Minister Tony Blair said in 1994: "We will halt the expansion of private prisons."

And he quoted future Home Secretary Jack Straw as saying in 1997: "I should like to stress my fundamental objection to prisons run by the private sector."

Mr Guilfoyle said: "Within months of the general election all these paper promises have been thrown away.

"National security and public safety are fundamental tasks of the state, not the private sector."

Leanne Wood, a probation officer from South Wales, criticised the Securicor-run Parc Prison near Bridgend, South Wales, which has experienced riots and two inmate suicides since it opened in November 1997.

She said the £26m jail should be nationalised because the private sector was motivated by profit and therefore should not be in charge of prisons.

But a Securicor spokesman said that describing the disturbances at Parc Prison as riots was unfair.

He said: "These incidents reflect problems which had been at Parc before we took over. Parc has now had a quiet few months."

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