Last Friday afternoon, protestors occupied the lobby of Kier; the company contracted to build a new mega-prison in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire
Prison abolitionist protest group, Community Action on Prison Expansion (CAPE), is turning attention to the private companies set to profit from increased rates of incarceration amidst the biggest prison expansion project in generations. They are demanding that the Ministry of Justice respond to overcrowding in prisons not with prison expansion but by reducing the prison population through decarceration.
The protesters call for Kier and all other companies enabling prison expansion to reject their government contracts and instead direct their resources towards rebuilding local communities.
Kier is in a particularly vulnerable financial position, sustaining the loss of major government contracts amidst plummeting stock prices.
The Prison Estates Transformation Programme aims to create 10,000 new prison places by 2020 through the construction of six mega prisons and five new women’s ‘residential centres’. According to Corporate Watch, the programme is expected to cost £1.3 billion, much of which will be paid to private companies who are expected to turn a huge profit.
CAPE) called the Friday’s demonstration to object to the government’s investment in mass incarceration, highlighting that the UK already has the highest rates of incarceration in Europe. The group notes that, while private companies will make millions building new prisons, they do so while the British public is consumed with concerns about post-Brexit food shortages, lack of social housing, and a dwindling number of available refuges for domestic violence survivors.
As anti-prison expansion campaigner Helena Steal explains, “The government is responding to a social and economic crisis by spending billions to put more people in prison. Our communities need education, community centres, and social housing, not mega-prisons.”
Another campaigner for CAPE explains that “the most marginalized in our communities will become the collateral damage of this massive prison expansion project.”
BAME (“Black, Asian and minority ethnic”) communities are subject to incarceration at disproportionate rates; making up 26% of the prison population despite making up under 10% of the UK. 29% of people in prison are identified as having a learning difficulty or disability.
Outraged communities in South Wales have already successfully prevented mega-prison development at Port Talbot. Similar resistance is gathering in the villages surrounding the proposed mega-prison site at Full Sutton in East Yorkshire where hundreds of objections to the plans to build the prison have been submitted to the council, including one from the police.