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Prisoner Escorts Bill to be introduced next week 27 April 2007

LEGISLATION to enable the Department of Home Affairs to consider alternative methods of transferring prisoners will go before the House of Keys next week.

DHA Member Tim Crookall MHK will be taking the Prisoner Escorts Bill through the Keys and it is tabled for its First Reading on Tuesday (May 1). The nine-clause Bill seeks approval for prisoner escort functions to be contracted out by the Department following migration of prisoners to the new prison at Jurby early in 2008. Such a measure would only be implemented if it was proved to be the most cost effective way of providing prisoner escort services.

Home Affairs Minister Martyn Quayle MHK explained:

‘Following approval by Tynwald for construction of the new prison, we had to identify the most cost effective way of delivering certain services and one option was to look at contracting out the provision of prisoner escort services. This Bill allows the Department to implement such a process in an attempt to deliver the greatest value for money to the public purse. However, the final decision on whether the services will be contracted out or otherwise will only be taken after a full cost benefit analysis.’

Mr Crookall has been delegated responsibility for the offender management operations of both the Prison and Probation services. He commented:

‘This Bill will make it possible for us to look at private companies to take over prisoner escorts duties which will become more onerous when the prison is established at Jurby. We need to be able to assess what the Private Sector could provide and at what cost. If it is cheaper to keep it in-house then it will be kept in-house. The Bill simply gives us the ability to go out to tender and establish the most cost effective way forward. It is not a threat to jobs.’

If the Branches of the Legislature are supportive of the Prisoner Escorts Bill, the Department will initiate a tendering process for outsourcing the transport of prisoners. Prisoners need to be escorted at various times to attend, for instance, the Courts of Justice or hospitals for treatment. The implication of the Bill not being progressed would require the recruitment of around seven more prison officers.

Treasury has given concurrence to the Bill, providing the legislation does not pre-empt the requirement to evaluate the different options and that a full and detailed cost comparison between an in-house and outsourced service be submitted to Treasury in due course.

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