Tyne & Wear

Up to 200 jobs to go at HMP Northumberland

HMP Northumberland
Image caption The prison was formed by the merger of HMP Acklington and HMP Castington

Up to 200 jobs are to go at a Northumberland prison which is about to be privatised.

HMP Northumberland in Acklington, which houses more than 1,300 male prisoners, will be managed by Sodexo Justice Services from December.

The company said it had begun talks with union officials about reducing the site's current workforce of 580.

The Prison Officer's Association (POA) accused the firm of "putting profit before public safety".

Sodexo, which already operates one prison in Scotland and three in England, was awarded a 15-year contract worth about £250m to manage HMP Northumberland earlier this year.

The National Offender Management Service said Sodexo had produced a "compelling bid" to run the prison, formed after the merger of Castington and Acklington jails.

In a statement, the company said: "We are currently in consultation with the Ministry of Justice and the recognised unions regarding employment arrangements at HMP Northumberland.

"We have shared our proposed reduction in staffing numbers. We aim to achieve this reduction by voluntary means if possible.

"Formal consultation with employees will commence after 1 December 2013 when HMP Northumberland employees transfer to Sodexo Justice Services."

Rehabilitation revolution

A spokesman for the POA said: "The announcement that 200 jobs will go at HMP Northumberland will place private profit before public safety.

"We insist that Sodexo now provide safe systems of work, risk assessments and staff profiles to ensure that HMP Northumberland is safe, secure and decent for staff, prisoners and the public.

"The POA will not tolerate unsafe working practices and unsupervised prisoners.

"The warehousing of prisoners will not provide the promised rehabilitation revolution."

Sodexo Justice Services is part of the French multinational Sodexo Group, which provides services including catering, cleaning and security.

HMP Northumberland was criticised in 2012 after inspectors found a third of inmates spent days in their cells "doing nothing".

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