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On the 27th of June several Socialist Party members attended a protest outside a conference at Leeds University entitled ‘Private Sector Involvement in Criminal Justice’.

Matt Booth – Leeds North West Socialist Party

Despite the muggy conditions on Wednesday morning there was a good turnout at the University of Leeds as the NotoG4S campaign held a picket at the School of Law, where a conference entitled ‘Private Sector Involvement in Criminal Justice’ was about to begin. The conference was not only an attempt to analyse the policies and practices of huge private security companies such as G4S and SERCO, which already operate within the system on lucrative government contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds, but to also discuss issues regarding accountability and regulation. The conference program included talks from academics and researchers, representatives from probation trusts and police forces, and managing directors from G4S and SERCO. Outside, members of the Socialist Party joined the organisers from the NotoG4S campaign together with members of the SWP, Leeds Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Unison and UCU. A supportive response from both passersby (including a policeman) and conference attendees, helped to create a positive atmosphere, as did abundant offerings of coffee.

One of the speakers at the conference, Richard Morris of G4S, surprisingly came out to chat; a courteous and well-mannered attempt to defend the privatisation of the criminal justice system. However, when questioned on such specifics as the increasing complaints of racial abuse and physical assault in immigration removal centres, the provision of services and facilities to Israeli occupying forces in Palestine (effectively sustaining the occupation) and the awarding of contracts to G4S while a verdict on the charge of corporate manslaughter following the death of Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga in 2010 is still pending, he had little in the way of a convincing response. In fact, his explicit claim that those placed in prison were there to be ‘punished’ highlighted his serious misunderstanding of the role that incarceration has as a rehabilitative force in society.

Without doubt the most alarming incident of the morning was the predicament of two NotoG4S supporters who as Leeds University law students were fully entitled to attend the conference free of charge. Having arrived nearly an hour early they took the time to talk to campaigners about the important issues surrounding the conference and were consequently refused entry. Security guards saw these students ‘involved’ in the picket and decided that they were attempting to attend the conference purely to cause trouble and disruption. This is a clear attempt to mould the audience of a supposedly impartial conference by turning away potential opposition from the inappropriately named ‘Liberty’ Building.

This engaging demonstration not only highlighted the support that such campaigns as NotoG4S can gain from various organisations and from the public but how seriously the private sector and it’s advocators take such well organised and enthusiastic opposition. We must continue to combat all such privatisation with the confidence that people will stand by our side.

The Socialist Party argue for a fully nationalised and democratically controlled state, including prison, immigration and prisoner transport services, as it is the only way that shocking crimes caused by the criminally negligent capitalists, can be stopped.