Private Eye on the Magistrates’ Partnership with the Private Prisons Companies

One of the biggest scandals in America is the relationship between the private prisons companies and legal authorities and local governments. The private prison companies lobby the state legislatures to pass harsher laws, and the judiciary to increase custodial sentencing, all to boost their profits. One of the cases highlighted by Michael Moore in his film, Capitalism: A Love Story, is the case of a troubled teenage girl, who was sent to a private jail by a judge, who was in receipt of monies donated by one of the private prison companies.

According to this last fortnight’s Private Eye, the same has been happening in England. They report that the Magistrate’s Association has been attempting to open a profit-making arm in conjunction with the outsourcing companies that run prisons. After having been criticised for the scheme, the Association is trying to fold it into the Probation Institute, but leaving this corrupt relationship intact.

Here’s the article:

Magistrates

Bendy Beaks

Who is the Magistrates’ Association trying to kid?

Last year it was criticised for getting into bed with the very same private punishment companies which now carry out the sentences imposed by … magistrates. It had set up a commercial wing, the MA Education and Research Network, as part of an “income generation strategy”. Alas, three of its funding partners were the French multinational Sodexo, US import MCT Novo, and Working Links – all of which, thanks to former justice secretary Chris Grayling, now profit from carrying out court punishments.

The move troubled some at the top of the MA as well as its rank and file; and after the Eye highlighted concerns over conflicts of interest, sources told the Eye that there were plans to close the network. But when asked if it would therefore return members’ money used as seed funding, MA communications director Jason Hughes said, on 4 December last year: “There are no plans to close down the network. Your question regarding seed funding is therefore redundant.”

But the Eye has now been leaked minutes from an MA board meeting held two days earlier, on 2nd December, showing a weaselly plan to distance the MA from the scheme. In the minutes, chief executive Chris Brace said the board had decided to dissolve the network and that it would be “incorporated” into the Probation Institute. Among the reasons cited were negative publicity, allegations about compromising justice and judicial independence, and the amount of time spent on “reputational management”.

Troubled members of the MA should know what this means. As Hughes now explains: “The network was incorporated into the Probation Institute; it therefore exists (not closed) with a different ownership and governance structure – however, the objectives are maintained. The legal vehicle by which it was subsidiary of the Magistrates Association has been dissolved, as per the minutes. The [seed] funding … has been allocated to setting up the new initiative and into research about the treatment of women in the criminal justice system.” (Readers may recall that “women in the justice system” were hastily added to its initial research plans after the Eye questioned why its first year was to be focused on “technology” – an obvious commercial interest.)

The Probation Institute website declares that this “new joint Probation and Judicial Matters Professional Network … will include magistrates, probation and … rehabilitation practitioners” – ie, Sodexo et al. The venture is “an evolution of the work that has already taken place within the association’s Education and Research Network”, and aims at “identifying priority areas of research which the two organisations should promote, and to facilitate and encourage contributions from funder”. New name, new legal governance – same old tricks?

If the MA hope this would head off criticism, it hasn’t. Frances Crook, of the Howard league, said: “Taking substantial sums of money from companies delivering sentences calls into question the independence and integrity of the Magistrates Association. Now would be the time to repay the money and be honest with its members about this unfortunate relationship.” (Private Eye, 15th – 28th April, 39).

The relationship between the Magistrates Association and the private prisons industry would have confirmed to anarchists like Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Malatesta not only the basic injustice of the state, but also its links to exploitative capitalism. With a fund-raising network like that, you can understand why the Surrealists, in the first issue of their magazine, demanded that the prisons should be opened and the convicts released. I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s a recipe for terrible miscarriages of justice and bring the British legal system into severe disrepute.

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2 Responses to “Private Eye on the Magistrates’ Partnership with the Private Prisons Companies”

  1. curi56 Says:

    Reblogged this on HumanSinShadow.

  2. sdbast Says:

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

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