Our investigation has found that after Mitie took over Harmondsworth, the company began locking detainees in their cells for two hours longer at night, from 9pm to 8am, instead of 10pm to 7am. Detainees are now spending almost half of their time locked inside their cells. This appears to be contrary to the Detention Centre Rules 2001, which say there should be “a relaxed regime with as much freedom of movement and association as possible”.
At a meeting with Mitie managers and a director, a detainee asks why the lock up times were changing (the meeting took place in the visitors' hall at Harmondsworth, with its distinctive painting of the London skyline). Mitie's detention centre manager, Paul Morrison, told them it was because “we're having a reconfiguration of what we do and what we deliver in the centre as part of our new contract and our process.”
Morrison says this is because “we want to deliver a better service in the day, and we've only got 'X' number of staff”. However, the Financial Times has previously reported that Mitie's new contract does involve job losses. Morrison says the company's solution is to “squeeze the end and beginning of the day so that that pushes in lots and lots of hours into the day”. He claims that this is “the only way we can realistically” deliver an improved service: “the price that we pay is a little bit of an earlier lock up”. Morrison says he hopes that the detainees will “understand the reasons for doing it”.
The detainee responds “I do understand, it's saving money.” Morrison insists: “No it's not saving money it's being more efficient.” The detainee replies: “That goes against my freedom. I'm here for that reason, and I don't want to be pushed, I don't want to be squeezed, for more money or for more profits to be made.”