Last month, following an unannounced inspection from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, HMP Birmingham was taken back under government control and away from G4S, the private company contracted to manage the prison.
Why was this decision made?
The chief inspector of prisons, Peter Clarke, said they had decided they had no other choice when the inspection revealed prisoners acting violently to each other and prison staff, and hygiene issues including bloodstains, rat excrement and cockroaches, which were being left unchecked. Added to this were problems with staff who had not received adequate training so were unable to control the prisoners and, by default, the prison itself.
This is not the first time that HMP Birmingham has been under the spotlight. In 2016 a prison riot brought it to the attention of the national press and, in 2017, it was the subject of a damning review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. At the time, the inspectors agreed a series of improvement notices with G4S and it is unclear why these were not successful in turning the situation at the prison around.
What is clear is that what happened at the prison was what Peter Clarke described as an abject failure of contract management and delivery. Good contract management is a key part of operating any large-scale, complex service of the type delivered by G4S. And, to get this right, good supplier management software, such as that offered by Supplier Management Software company Contractswise, should be a key part of a company’s toolkit.
What next for HMP Birmingham?
The Ministry of Justice agreed with the inspectorate’s decision and will take over running the prison for at least six months. They will work with a G4S taskforce focused on delivering improvements in how the prison is managed, which may well involve looking at their supplier management software and whether it is fit for purpose. The ministry’s first step was to carry out a thorough investigation into how the prison was run and what went wrong before putting in place improvement plans they will now follow through.
Now, prisons minister Roy Stewart says the government will provide the resources needed to solve the problems they’ve identified. He added that there were good, privately-run, prisons currently operating so this wasn’t a reflection on the entire prison system.