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3 December 2013, 05:36
People living near HMP Northumberland in Acklington are worried that cuts to staff numbers after it was taken over could lead to more escapes by prisoners.
It was announced in October that the prison would be handed over from the Government to a private company, Sodexo.
At the time, the Prison Officers Association (POA) said in a statement:
"The announcement that 200 jobs will go at HMP Northumberland will place private profit before public safety say the POA.
The POA insist that Sodexo now provide safe systems of work, risk assessments and staff profiles to ensure that HMP Northumberland is safe, secure and decent for staff, prisoners and the public.The POA will not tolerate unsafe working practices and unsupervised prisoners.
The warehousing of prisoners will NOT provide the promised rehabilitation revolution.Safe, secure and decent prisons are non- negotiable."
The prison was taken over by Sodexo at the weekend, and Capital's been speaking to people living nearby about what they think.
One woman said:
"I don't think they should be cutting jobs because they need staff to protect the prisoners for security."
Another man told us:
"It's a concern to me incase they cut down on the security, because it's a profit-making organisation that's taken it over and they're out to make money.
It'll definitely be more unsafe to live round here."
Speaking after the takeover, the POA said:
"The worst case scenario for us is that we won't have enough staff to look after prisoners there, there could be riots, there could be an escape. We just don't know.
If our members tells us that the place is no longer safe then we, as a trade union, will go up there and assist our members."
A spokesperson for Sodexo Justice Services who have taken over at HMP Northumberland said:
"Sodexo Justice Services has a long-established track record. We have been running prisons for over 20 years in the UK and currently manage over 3,000 offenders on a daily basis in our prisons.
When we take over HMP Northumberland on Sunday (December 1), it will be a case of business as usual on Day 1. We intend to build on what has already been achieved by the current team and continue to develop HMP Northumberland as a working prison, one where prisoners can develop skills that will help them to find work when they are released.
This was one of the key goals set by the Ministry of Justice when awarding the contract to Sodexo Justice Services and providing enhanced opportunities for the rehabilitation of offenders is a key part of our overall approach to running prisons.
We have already announced a process of consultation with regard to reduced staffing at the prison and our aim is to manage this by voluntary means where possible. In no way will this reduction compromise security or the efficient running of the prison.
Our proposals have been subject to detailed and lengthy scrutiny and we are confident that they will deliver a safe, secure prison, with a regime that promotes both hard work and rehabilitation, while delivering better value to the taxpayer."