UK Prisons and outsourcing performance

This week the BBC reported that the 14 UK prisons run privately through outsourcing agreements were ‘run better’ than those run directly by the government.

Surprised? There is no need. Prisons may be a service closely linked to the government and law enforcement agencies, but at their heart they involve an enormous amount of logistics management and there are many companies in the private sector with better knowledge of how to do this than government agencies.

Outsourcing gets a bad reputation from some because they feel that jobs always vanish offshore to distant locations and others because they feel that there are some tasks that should just never be outsourced – particularly from the public sector.

This is an emotional debate, but it’s worth remembering that the terminology and problems assumed to exist are just not always there. Outsourcing merely means contracting a company to perform a task. Companies and individuals do this all the time without a thought.

Does your company perform their own accounting and payroll internally? Probably not. When your bathroom at home was flooded because of faulting plumbing did you whip out a wrench and start fixing it yourself? Probably not.

Outsourcing is a normal process we all use and it doesn’t deserve the toxic label it is often granted by the media. It’s an often-confused strategy, but at its core outsourcing just means hiring the best possible service provider to get the job done. What’s your view?


Photo by Dar licensed under Creative Commons

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