A multimillion-pound contract to manage ‘detainee escort services’ on behalf of the UK Border Agency has been awarded to Reliance Secure Task Management, which will replace the current contractor, G4S, from May next year. The four-year contract covers both in-country escorts (between detention centres and courts and airports) and overseas repatriations (escorting deportees on forcible deportation flights).
In a press release on 29th October, the Home Office confirmed that Reliance Secure Task Management Limited has been chosen as the preferred bidder after a months-long tendering process. In the meantime, G4S will continue to manage escorts on behalf of the UKBA despite ongoing investigations into the death of Angolan refugee Jimmy Mubenga in the hands of G4S security guards during his forcible deportation on 12th October (see this previous Corporate Watch article for details).
The head of the UKBA’s Criminality and Detention group, David Wood, is shamelessly quoted in the press release saying: “Throughout the comprehensive tendering process, which began in September 2009, Reliance has demonstrated an ability to provide excellent service and its bid offers the best value for money. We want to thank all of the bidders in this tendering process, and G4S, which has provided this service over the past five years.”
Relying on Reliance
Reliance Secure Task Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance Security Group incorporating Reliance Custodial Services, Reliance Medical Services Ltd, Reliance Resource Solutions Ltd and Reliance Care Services, operates a growing number of lucrative contracts in the ‘criminal justice sector’ on behalf of the Home Office, government agencies, courts and police authorities across the UK. It is one of the largest providers of ‘custody management services’ in prison and immigration detention, secure transportation and works on Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) with a number of public authorities.
The company was established in 1994, initially as Reliance Custodial Services, specifically to enter the market created by the Tory government’s decision to privatise a number of key criminal justice ‘services’, particularly the transportation and custody of detainees to and from law courts. As further Home Office contracts, that did not fall within the scope of custodial ‘services’ were offered, the company’s name was changed to Reliance Secure Task Management Ltd, with Reliance Custodial Services becoming a trading division of the company. As new ‘markets’ opened up and new contracts were awarded, new divisions were added to the Reliance Secure Task Management portfolio.
In 1995, Reliance Custodial Services was awarded a contract by the Prisoner Escort and Custody Services department (part of HM Prison Services) to manage prisoner escorts and custody in South Wales and South West England. In 2003, the company was also appointed by the Scottish Executive to provide prisoner escort ‘services’ across Scotland. Today, Reliance transports over 440,000 detainees a year, employs over 900 custody officers and operates 400 specialised vehicles from 18 bases across 22 police services (see here).
The company’s other ‘secure transport’ contracts include the transportation of ‘youth offenders’, carrying around 4,000 people annually, and a secure shuttle service for transporting immigration officers to their presenting units. It also has contracts to transport children and adults with special needs to and from schools, day care centres and hospitals (see here).
In 2004, Reliance was contracted to run the first immigration detainee monitoring and tagging scheme in the UK. 35 refugees in Glasgow were subjected to voice recognition monitoring, and some 50 to tagging, including up to 10 on satellite tracking. The company is now, along with Serco, one of the main companies operating monitoring and tagging devices in the UK (see here).
Drawing on its ‘experience’ with PFIs for police authorities in Sussex, Gloucestershire and Kent, working in a total of nine police custody centres (see here), now Reliance seems to be eyeing up detention centre contracts: “Knowledge of detainee requirements and the construction of high quality buildings would be critical to Reliance’s priorities when providing Detention Centres or Removal Centres.” The company used to manage an immigration reporting centre in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire.