The Minister of Justice has taken over HMP Birmingham as it is not being managed to a sufficient standard. G4S was contracted to run the prison until 2026, however the prison’s disastrous management by G4S has led to this change in leadership. The prison was given multiple notices throughout the year. When inspected, it was shown to be covered in blood, vomit and vermin. The conditions of the prison were unacceptable and urgently need to be improved.
The category B prison holds 1,450 male adult prisoners. This prison was also the place of the riots in 2016. Unsurprisingly, G4S were in control of the prison at this time. There were 600 prisoners involved in the riot and 240 were moved out of the HMP Birmingham prison. G4S had shown signs that the security and operations at the prison were lacking. There had also been a case of arson this year in the prison’s car park where a car was damaged by two masked men. Arguably, G4S should have noticed this decrease in the level of security earlier and tried to improve their management techniques to regain control of the prison. However, these improvements never came.
This takeover creates questions over the capability of G4S being able to efficiently run the prison. G4S also run other prisons such as Altcourse, Oakwood, Parc and Rye Hill which all appear to be running efficiently. It seems shocking that a global company that had a good reputation is running the ‘worst prison’, as described by the Chief Inspector of prisons. G4S says that an important part of their work is to ensure that they are making a ‘positive contribution to the communities’ around them. This case makes the statement extremely ironic as the deteriorating state of the prison has created terror and negative media attention in the community. As the prison is located in the inner city, it is especially important that it is managed to the highest level to ensure that there won’t be any negative effects or harm to the local people.
Staff were being bullied and assaulted which left them scared when working in the prison. In addition to this, staff had been caught locking themselves in their own offices. The safety of staff should be key when operating a business. Specifically, when working in a prison it is vital that staff feel safe and secure in their roles in order to perform well. Some prisoners even said that they had felt unsafe when in their locked cells. As the Ministry of Justice work on improving the prison, they will bring in a new governor and extra staff that are very experienced. The aim is to improve the state of the prison by ensuring staff are well-trained and that leadership of the prison is operating correctly.
The inspector that visited the prison had seen prisoners that were clearly intoxicated with alcohol and drugs. This behaviour by the prisoners at HMP Birmingham is intolerable, prisoners should not be able to think that they are allowed to consume drugs and alcohol. One of the main issues that needs to be resolved at HMP Birmingham is the discipline level. Staff need to regain control of the prison and become more reliable and efficient in their roles. This will lead to a safer prison for the local community.
G4S released a statement on their website about the change in management. They claim that:
‘The wellbeing and safety’ of their prisoners is key and that they ‘welcome the six-month step-in and the opportunity to work with the Ministry of Justice to urgently address the issues faced at the prison’.