The Dirty 30 | #10 UK Aspirations: Unlawful Death and a Violent Legacy

In 2013, Corrections Corporation of America is "celebrating" its thirtieth anniversary.  We believe there is nothing to celebrate about 30 years of profiting off of incarceration.  In response Grassroots Leadership and Public Safety and Justice Campaign published "The Dirty Thirty: Nothing to Celebrate About Thirty Years of Corrections Corporation of America," a list of thirty stories that exhibit the most troubling aspects of the company's history.  Each week we'll highlight one of these stories.  Click here to view the full report.  Printed copies are available in limited quanitity.  For more information please contact Kymberlie Quong Charles.

From early on, CCA identified potential markets abroad and formed joint ventures with politically well-connected and experienced security and construction companies and financial institutions to lobby governments, promote prison privatization and bid for contracts.[1]

In the 1980s and 1990s the company tried to win contracts in the United Kingdom (UK), France, Italy, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. In 1994 CCA formed a partnership with Sodexho (as it was then known) to bid for contracts outside of the USA, UK, Belgium and Australia aiming to split profits 51/49 per cent in English-speaking countries where CCA would take the lead, and 49/51 per cent in the rest of the world where Sodexho would lead.

In 1989 CCA won its first non-US contract (and subsequently several more contracts) in Australia. In the UK, despite playing a significant role in persuading the government to implement prison privatization, contracts were hard to come by.[2]

Ultimately, despite its global aspirations, CCA’s expansion abroad was limited to the UK and Australia and by 2000 CCA had sold the majority of its international operations to Sodexho, only retaining a financial interest in one prison in England. The company's new strategy was to concentrate on the US domestic market.

As in the United States, CCA’s presence, as well as the promotion and implementation of private prisons, in the UK and Australia was also controversial. Prisons under CCA’s joint management were sometimes problematic leading to operational failures, fines and, in Victoria Australia, a lost contract (see #11). There were allegations that the company’s Australian subsidiary attempted to influence the outcome of independent academic research comparing a public prison with the CCA-run Borallon prison in Queensland.[3]

One of the most notorious incidents in a CCA-managed prison occurred at Blakenhurst prison in England, the company’s first UK prison management contract. As a result CCA’s joint venture company, UK Detention Services Ltd, earned the dubious distinction of being the first private prison operator in the UK to cause the unlawful death of a prisoner, and the first to cause such a death by the use of restraint.[4]

On December 8, 1995 Alton Manning, a 33 year old black prisoner on remand for an alleged violent offence, died as a result of being restrained by prison officers. But the full circumstances of his death did not come to light until a subsequent coroner’s inquest that led to a jury’s unanimous verdict on March 24, 1998 that Mr. Manning had been unlawfully killed by UKDS staff.

The coroner’s inquest found that Manning had agreed to be strip searched on a routine drug inspection but had refused to squat for a genital and anal inspection. This resulted in a violent struggle. Witnesses testified that Manning was thrown to the floor, violently kicked, struck in the head and placed in a neck hold. A call was made for medical assistance after guards noticed the pool of blood. When the nurse arrived, she saw officers still restraining Manning’s arms and, after asking the guards to release him, found that he was not breathing. Manning was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. A post-mortem examination found that he had died of asphyxia due to restraint

The inquest also exposed a catalogue of missing crucial documents and evidence, including the operational failure of vital surveillance cameras and lost reports containing officers’ written accounts of the events.

Following the verdict of unlawful killing, seven UKDS officers were suspended on full pay pending an investigation by the government’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). They were later reinstated after no case against them was brought. The CPS argued that there was insufficient evidence to allow a case against the officers to proceed.

Alton Manning’s family filed a lawsuit to persuade the CPS to reconsider, but in 2002 the CPS again refused. After seven years, the family was forced to concede defeat in its attempt to seek justice.[5]

  1. For more detailed accounts of CCA’s international operations see Corrections Corporation of America: A Critical Look At Its First Twenty Years, Mattera,P, Khan, M, and Nathan, S, Grassroots Leadership, December 2003
  2. “The Formation of UK Detention Services,” Hopkins, R.D.N. paper presented at Private Gevangenissen in Nederland conference, Utrecht, December 1, 1993.
  3. Profiting From Punishment Private Prisons In Australia: Reform or Regression, pages 233-238, Moyle, P, Pluto Press, 2000
  4. See information available from INQUEST and The Queen and HM Coroner for the County of Worcester and the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley ex parte UK Detention Services Ltd., Royal Courts of Justice CO-402-98, Queens Bench Division, February 18, 1998
  5. A Family Destroyed, The Guardian, 8 February 2005