11 February 2003

Government Launches Prospects:

The Government launched its "Prospects" scheme with a low key announcement on the Number 10 website and a verbatim regurgitation of the news on the BBC website. The scheme is intended to address the long--identified gap in services for offenders who missed the CARAT boat by virtue of their shorter senteces but still needed support.

Unfortunately, the briefing from Number 10 was long on rhetoric but short on detail: salient points were:

"The scheme will be available to offenders who:
  • are sentenced to less than 12 months
  • are persistent offenders, but who do not have a history of serious offences
  • have a history of drug misuse
  • have tested negative for drug use in prison and who demonstrate a real motivation to be drug free
  • may have housing problems
  • have a local connection to the catchment area of the premises
After release from prison participants will stay for 12 weeks at the approved premises in the five local communities and undergo a strict but supportive regime.

This seems a bit scetchy; it is not clear if it means that people will be tested; at a guess it means that they will be evicted/breached if use is suspected. In addition, housing would of course be threatened thanks to restrictions under Section 8.

At the end of this period, they will be provided with a further six months tenancy in longer-term accommodation, and will continue to benefit from a support network run by the supplier.

And again, the same problems that dog TST work or Supporting People with Section 8.

The pilot will be tested in Exeter, Preston, Merseyside and the wider Bristol area. Contracts to run the projects have been awarded to UK Detention Services (UKDS), Stonham Housing Association and the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO).

While Stonham Housing Group and NACRO are familiar names, UKDS was a new one to us; research reveals that they are part of the multinational "Sodexho Alliance" primarily known for supplying food in a multitude of arenas. Sodexho moved in to the provision of "correctional facilities" . Prisoners working in Sodexho-run facilities (UK, Sodexho run Forest Bank) are paid £14 per week, for jobs such as refurbishing sun-beds for local businesses. Sodexhoe's correctional wing earns in 91million euros in revenue per year.

The website talks about the detail of their drugs provision, in all its sketchy glory:
How are you combating drug use in your facilities?
Each time the government of the country we are operating involves us in this process, we have a program based on education and detoxification.

The following list enlarges upon that statement:
  • Detoxification offered to all requiring it.
  • Video about drugs shown to all inmates.
  • Extensive community involvement.
  • Director is a member of Community Drug Action Team.
  • Drug-free accommodation area.
  • 250 inmates engaged in voluntary drug testing program.
  • Processes to prevent overdosing risk on discharge.
  • Measures to prevent smuggling. 
  • Use of drug dogs.

 One would hope for counsellors and trained staff, especially as they move in to this specialized area of work...Sodexho recently extracted itself from its American correctional facilties, and has adopted a policy of not working in regimes which practice the death penalty or where they would be required to carry weapons. This hasn't stopped growing pressure on Sodexho to pull out of this arena altogether.

Sodexho was also the company that had responsibility for running the much criticised "voucher scheme" for asylum seekers in the UK.

A trawl on the internet reveals seething disquiet at the role that Sodexho play in the provision of prison services;

 "According to the most recent Prison Service Annual Report and Accounts (England & Wales, 2000-2001), Sodexho’s "model" prison at Forest Bank has the highest rate of rate of assaults and the sixth highest rate of positive drug tests among all 40 prisons in its class (Male Local Prisons) http://www.hmprisonservice.gov.uk/corporate/dynpage.asp?Page=516. Meanwhile, the company is also making money locking up refugees, including children, in its new Harmondsworth Detention "


If their drugs work is anything like their catering....