With the reform of the public sector driven by the EU-IMF bailout, outsourcing is now very much on the Government’s agenda. eolas talks to G4S’s Niall Feely about the potential for outsourcing in the justice system and how it can not only reduce cost but deliver innovation in service delivery.
There are now over 4,500 people within the justice system which is under pressure because of a number of issues. Increasing prisoner numbers and the early release scheme are causing public concern and these pressures look set to continue. In addition, the quality of the prison estate has been challenging for some time. There had been a scheme to replace Mountjoy prison with a new facility at Thornton Hall but with the reduced capital expenditure across the public sector the plan is now to deliver a much smaller facility at the new site and to upgrade the existing estate. As with the rest of the public sector there has also been pressure on staffing levels, although there was an increase in prison officer numbers last year to cope with the increase in prisoner numbers.
The prison service has seen some limited ‘civilianisation’ which has enabled officers to be released from administrative duties into front line roles. Niall Feely sees two immediate areas where there are already good examples of this working internationally: prisoner transportation and custody suite management. “Both these areas have a significant pool of resources which could be released to front line duties,” he observes.
“Not only does this process free up prison officers but you would expect any outsourcing to be more flexible, more innovative and better value for money,” he adds.
In the longer term, Feely sees more scope for deeper reform of services: “The present focus is on short term savings, which is understandable in the present economic climate, and in the longer term the focus will be on reform to deliver better services.” Looking at policing services he also sees opportunity for changing the way services are delivered. Again in prisoner transportation and in other areas that would be suitable for civilianisation such as access control to Garda stations.
“This would free up resources to put more gardaí onto the streets, either using other public sector workers or outsourced contracts.”
G4S has care and justice operations internationally in UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Israel, USA, South Africa and New Zealand. The company has a security heritage and has operated in Ireland since the late 1960s. It has over
3,000 employees with offices in Dublin, Cork, Athlone, Limerick, Galway and Sligo. It covers the entire country and is familiar as a cash management and CIT provider, and provides a full range of security services from people and process through to technology such as CCTV and electronic monitoring.
In prisons G4S has an offender management capability in a number of countries, including the UK where it runs five (soon to be six) prisons including HM Prison Birmingham, a Category B local prison with over 1,400 prisoners, which is the first prison to transfer from public to private management. The company also provides services for remand prisoners in South Australia and for maximum security prisoners in South Africa.
In the UK, G4S ran an extensive court services operation until earlier this year with 2,000 employees and 400 vehicles. G4S processed 538,000 prisoners through court and 74,000 inter-prison movements each year. In Scotland the company was awarded the prisoner escorting and in court services for the Scottish Prison Service earlier this year and starts the service at the beginning of 2012.
Children and youth services
G4S provides continuous care for detained and adjudicated young offenders in the UK, managing three Secure Training entres and a number of children’s homes. In the United States, it supervises over 1,000 young offenders in Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas providing services ranging from community supervision and aftercare to maximum risk programmes.
Electronic tagging is used for monitoring those on early release from prison or as an alternative to custody. The Department of Justice in Ireland is currently undertaking a pilot project using GPS technology to monitor offenders on early release. In the UK and NI, where G4S monitors around
13,000 subjects, electronic tagging has been used as an alternative to short term sentencing and is applicable to home curfews for periods less than six months. It has also potential use for probation services.
There is a number of companies, including G4S, that have capability to deliver services into the Irish justice system and Feely believes that there would be a market for such services, which would deliver a competitive cost base in any outsourcing.
The economic situation is such that we believe outsourcing presents real opportunities for government to deliver a significant reduction in cost while maintaining service standards and outcome, Feely stresses.
“Outsourcing drives innovation, cost reduction and clear accountability, not only from the private sector but also within the public sector. It should not only be seen as something that provides services at lower cost but it can also improve quality of service and it is also an opportunity for job creation.”