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Security

HMP Lowdham Grange contract to transition to public sector control

His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and Sodexo have agreed, in principle, terms to enable HMP Lowdham Grange in Nottinghamshire to be brought under public sector control, the Prisons Minister announced yesterday.

Above: The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, commonly referred to as the Old Bailey, is a criminal court building in central London.
Copyright Shutterstock / by David G40

Sodexo are currently the contracted operator of the prison, although His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) stepped in to take over responsibility for running elements of the prison on an interim basis in December 2023.

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Both parties have agreed terms in principle to conclude the contract whereby Sodexo will pay a settlement to cover the cost of the ‘step-in’ action and anticipated additional future operating costs, meaning there will be no increased cost to the taxpayer. This meets the department’s commitment to recover ‘step-in’ costs in accordance with the contract as well as operating costs up to February 2028 when a five year break clause could have been triggered by HMPPS.

Negotiations are ongoing to finalise transfer terms and conclude contracts, and it is currently anticipated that the transition will take effect during Summer 2024. Continuity of employment of existing Sodexo employees at the prison will be protected and those staff will be supported through the transition. Trade unions are involved in this process.

Governor Neil Thomas, who took command of the prison last December at the time of the ‘step-in’, will remain in post to lead the prison and steer the transition process. The transition will have no impact on prison capacity.

Prisons Minister Edward Argar said: "Given the very specific issues at HMP Lowdham Grange, we took swift action to step-in and improve conditions and safety by providing extra support.

"The majority of private prisons perform well, including others Sodexo runs but it has become clear that taking over permanently is the best way to ensure that improvements continue."

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Work continues to drive-up standards at the prison and the action taken includes:

  • a bolstered HMPPS senior management team and up to 50 additional, experienced prison officers and residential managers supporting the team on the ground to provide consistent and predictable regimes for prisoners
  • a significant, interim deployment of additional, experienced operational staff and managers from other Sodexo prisons
  • HMPPS team arranged for Illicitly Brewed Alcohol Dogs (IBAD) support, which resulted in considerable quantities of either fermenting or distilled being removed from the establishment
  • additional training and support for staff from the National Safety Team and Training and Development
  • a joint HMPPS and Sodexo search of the establishment which retrieved significant amounts of contraband
  • improvements to prison stability achieved by identifying and transferring those individuals responsible for serious incidents and violence in the prison
  • the refurbishment of windows on one wing with a further seven wings planned to improve decency and prevent contraband ingress
  • imminent plans for enhanced gate security to deter contraband trafficking into the establishment

As a result of these actions rates of violence towards staff have decreased by 50% and there has been a significant reduction in prisoner-on-prisoner assault rates. Positive drug tests have also reduced since HMPPS step-in.

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