Privatizing Probation, are they serious?

For quite some time, rumours have swirled that the Tory’s were planning on privatizing elements of the UK justice department. These appear to have been confirmed with an announcement of a plan too privatise the probation services. This should lead to some nice juicy contracts being given to a few wealthy Tory donors.

But what could possibly go wrong? Well the fact that one of the companies in the bidding is G4S, hardly builds confidence. This is the same company who took on the privatised job of protecting the Olympics, then bugger everything up, forcing the army to be deployed at considerable expense to the taxpayer.

Furthermore, the history of privatzing public sector posts like this is seldom positive. Consider the fiasco when prison transport was privatised and they started loosing prisoners (again G4S, then known as Group 4 became notorious for this). Indeed the other day there was a piece on radio 5 live about rogue bailiffs.

Then there was the scandal of A4E, where the government (specifically the Blair government) privatised parts of the social service aimed at getting people back into work. It has since turned out that many of these “charities” involved have simply milked the government to the tune of millions (£180 million in the case of A4E, the fraud office is investigating last I heard), putting people in jobs they weren’t suitable for (and ultimately were unable to keep) or simply faking their records to show that people had gotten jobs. All the while the directors creamed off millions (Emma Harrison of A4E paying herself a cool £8.6 million!).

Indeed, the Tory’s weren’t pointing the finger much about this, as they compounded the Blair government’s mistake through their policy of “welfare chain gangs” which turns out to provide “compelled labour” to corporations (including another security firm who forced benefits claimants to sleep under a bridge in London), thus discouraging them from hiring more full time staff (why hire someone at minimum wage when you can get a welfare recipient from the government for a fraction of the cost?).

In America a similar plan to privatise the handling of youth offenders in Pennsylvania, resulted in a major scandal (the so called “cash for kids Scandal”), where it turned out that the private company in question were colluding with a judge to obtain favourable rulings (i.e. rulings which then translated into an expensive contract being issued to the company to imprison, monitor or care for youths, with the judge getting a kick back).

So perhaps the question I should be asking is what can possibly go right?

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