The Victorian Origins of a 'Group 4' Prison Service
Under the present Conservative Government the Prison Service is being drastically altered. Prior to the 1877 Prisons Act, prisons in England and Wales were administered under two distinct and quite separate organisations. There was the Convict Prison Service, established in 1850 when transportation was in decline, and under central Home Office control and headed by a director. The second tier of administration were the local prisons which were administered under many local variations. These prisons included a mixture of local authority-controlled prisons and privatised franchise prisons.
Under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, a dual prison system will emerge once again, for the current legislation allows for the privatisation of at least two newly purpose-built penal establishments, the Wolds Remand Centre, Humberside, and Blakenhurst Prison, Worcestershire, a high-security local prison. The course of modern penal history in England and Wales has now come full circle, since the last privatised prison was taken over by the Home Office in 1878. The Home Office Prison Service Department itself adopted agency status from April 1st, 1993.
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