Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Penal Charity Gets Cosy With Private Security Company

I was somewhat alarmed to receive an e-mail today from David Banks, the Group Managing Director for G4S Care & Justice Services.

G4S used to be called Group 4 Securicor and is a vast international security corporation that runs private prisons and immigration removal centres in the UK. It also owns ArmorGroup, one of the unlicensed private contractors providing mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan that was the subject of a protest yesterday by War on Want. G4S has been targetted by a union global day of action for driving down wages in countries where it operates and denying workers their basic rights.

So, pretty much one of the lowest forms of corporate pond life - why, then, is Mr Banks contacting someone like me? Presumably because I'm a board member of INQUEST, I've been invited to attend a reception at the South Bank Centre to mark the 2009 Koestler Trust Awards exhibition, which G4S is sponsoring.

I can't think of a more inappropriate association for the Koestler Trust to choose to make than G4S. Arthur Koestler was a former Communist who was detained by Franco’s fascists during the Spanish Civil War, wrote the wonderful "Darkness at Noon" and was imprisoned by the French. In 1940 he was held in HMP Pentonville for six weeks - as an illegal immigrant, meaning he has far more in common with the terrified occupants of Dungavel House, Oakington and Tinsley House than he would ever have with the company that runs them.

I suspect this matters little to the charitable trust established in Koestler's name. So no, I won't be joining the select few for drinks and canapes on 25 November. But I'm more than happy to join a picket outside if there is one.

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