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What’s the line by the great Noam Chomsky about privatisation? “Defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.”

HM Prison Bedford seems a textbook example of this behaviour.

According to reports in many newspapers (this one‘s from The Guardian), one inmate caught and killed multiple rats in his cell during an inspection, while another – who had disabilities – was in a cell with no adaptations and had been provided with a wheelchair that could not be self-propelled and was therefore almost utterly useless.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke reported that two years of efforts to improve standards had failed, and they were continuing to decline.

In addition to the references to the disabled prisoner and the rat-catcher, he also referred to cells as “filthy and decrepit” and warned that the toilets did not flush properly.

Self-harm had increased substantially and there had been five self-inflicted deaths since the previous inspection in 2016.

Almost half of prisoners surveyed said it was easy to get illicit drugs, and a fifth said that they had developed a drug problem while in the jail. The smell of cannabis and other burning substances pervaded some wings, with one officer saying: “If it’s just cannabis, it’s a good day.”

And there was a serious lack of control on the wings as prison officers were inexperienced and struggled to exert authority over prisoners who did not obey basic rules or conform to expected behaviour.

What happened to all the experienced staff, I wonder?

They were probably retired by the Ministry of Justice in a cost-cutting exercise.

Of course Tory cuts have caused the harm that we see. Bedford was reportedly an exemplary prison in 2008 – under a Labour government – but then the Tories turned up, cut funding to the bone, and chaos ensued. Bedford was the location of a riot involving 200 inmates in November 2016.

So we see a prison service drained of funds, that is no longer fit for purpose. It certainly doesn’t even try to rehabilitate inmates any more, meaning when sentences are served, hardened criminals are released onto our streets, who know that the punishment for getting caught is no longer any punishment at all.

It’s all part of the Tory crimewave.

So much for the party of law and order.

The Tories are also the party of privatisation, and some prisons – notably HMP Northumberland – have been handed over to private operators – Sodexo, in that instance.

The result? Disaster.

Prison officer numbers had been cut, meaning the authorities had lost control. An undercover reporter for Panorama revealed that prisoners had been sneaking out – unobserved – to collect drugs. They were treating prison like a holiday camp.

But that’s what happens when you hand over corrective services to organisations for which the only concern is profit.

Private companies don’t care about the conditions in which prisoners live. They don’t care if there aren’t enough prison officers to keep control – they’ll cut employee numbers in order to make their profit. They don’t care if prisoners get out and bring illegal substances back – it probably makes them easier to handle. They certainly don’t care if prisoners learn nothing from the experience and go back to crime on their release – it means they will stay in business when those people are caught.

But at what cost to communities?

Worst of all, your Conservative government doesn’t care either.

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