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Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 247067, tabled on 24 April 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what comparative assessment he has made of (a) employment terms and conditions, (b) levels of violence, (c) overcrowding and (d) staffing levels at private and public prisons.

Answered on

2 May 2019

There is no single comparative assessment of public versus private prisons. However, all public sector and privately managed prisons are subject to the same performance framework, which assesses data against a range of measures. These are augmented by inspection scores, business intelligence and management information, including from management visits and assurance activities. Following an end of year moderation process, each establishment is assigned a place on a four-point rating scale, which runs from serious concern (1) to exceptional (4). The ratings for 2017/18 are published on at: Ratings for 2018/19 will be published in July this year.

All prisons are also independently scrutinised by Independent Monitoring Boards, HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.

The operational capacity of all prisons in England and Wales is provided monthly as part of the regularly published prison population statistics. This information can be found at: The rate of crowding is published in the Annual HMPPS Digest at: The average percentage of prisoners in crowded accommodation was 24.2% in 2017/18, a reduction of 0.3% from 2016/17.

The level of violence across both public sector and privately managed prisons is also closely monitored, and statistics are published routinely on The latest safety in custody statistics can be found at:

Prison officer numbers are at their highest in five years, which is vital to ensuring prisons are safe, secure and decent. We have recruited over 4,700 new prison officers across the country since October 2016 to improve safety and help turn offenders’ lives around. The recruitment drive will continue until we reach required levels across the prison estate, ensuring prisons can fulfil their purpose – protecting the public, reducing reoffending and, crucially, rehabilitating offenders. A breakdown of staffing at various grades by public sector prison establishment is provided as part of the HMPPS workforce statistics, which are published quarterly at:

The Ministry of Justice does not hold staffing numbers for privately managed prisons and, as such, their workforce statistics are not published. It is the responsibility of the contractor to determine and maintain the number of staff necessary to discharge the requirements of the contract and ensure that staff are sufficiently trained to undertake their duties.

Privately managed prisons have different grading systems from public sector establishments. Terms and conditions for staff, however, remain comparative.