G4S has hired the man in charge of negotiating private contracts for government prisons to run its troubled detention services division.
Paul Kempster is expected to join the outsourcing firm later this month and will oversee the five prisons G4S manages for the Government, as well as two immigration removal centres and a secure training centre for young people.
Mr Kempster is currently head of custodial services contract management at Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, the part of the Ministry of Justice which manages prisons in England and Wales. As part of his role, he has been responsible for awarding contracts to private firms including G4S, Serco and Sodexo to run prisons in the UK. Work to privatise British prisons began in the Nineties.
However, outsourcing the running of offender services to private companies has not been without controversy.
G4S has suffered amid high-profile scandals, including losing control of HMP Birmingham in December, which resulted in the most serious prison riot since inmates revolted at Strangeways in 1990. The incident caused an estimated £2m of damage and around 500 prisoners had to be moved.
Last year it was revealed that G4S had been fined at least 100 times for breaching its prison management contracts, which it has held since 2010.
As chief operating officer, Mr Kempster will report to Jerry Petherick, managing director for G4S’s custodial and detention services division.
Mr Petherick said the appointment puts this business “in a strong position to respond to today’s challenges and nurture innovation”.
“Paul brings tremendous experience from more than two decades in leading and managing detention environments in the public sector and will be a huge asset to our established team,” he added.
As well as five prisons, G4S holds Government contracts to run two immigration removal centres, Brook House and Tinsley House, both near Gatwick Airport. These centres accommodate people who are about to be deported from the UK.
As part of his new role, Mr Kempster will also be in charge of the running of Oakhill near Milton Keynes, a secure training centre which houses young people aged 15-17 who are on remand or sentenced to custody.
A recent report from education assessor Ofsted found that the overall effectiveness of the centre “required improvement”. Inspectors found while record numbers of young people were taking GCSEs, the mix of staff experience at the centre had left to “inconsistency and variability in practice”.
G4S is currently in the process of selling the contract to manage Oakhill, which it holds until 2029, as well as another secure unit in Medway, Kent.