On occasion you hear or see something that doesn't quite equate with your normal experience and as a result, just for a moment possibly, you begin to wonder if you've accidentally entered some sort of parallel universe. I got the feeling recently whilst visiting Westfield, the vast new shopping centre at Stratford East London, cunningly designed to make sure that every visitor to the Olympic Stadium did their duty and purchased loads of shit either on the way in, or on the way out.
In the twilight, just for a moment, I thought I had been transported to the mad urban environment featured in that stunning sci-fi film Bladerunner. (If you find this far-fetched, I suggest you give it a visit.) Equally surreal is that I noticed trains from Stratford International do not seem go beyond the Kent coast.
But surely we really are entering a parallel universe when I read that Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust is joining forces with Interserve in order to make a bid to run HMP Onley? Now unless I'm mistaken, this prison currently nestles in the English county of Northamptonshire, a good 150 miles or so down the A1 from Teeside. Actually they're not stopping there, but making a bid for HMP Wolds in Lincolnshire, as well as HMP Durham, a bit nearer to home admittedly. But this a National Agreement for goodness sake. They could be making a bid to run anything, anywhere!
What on earth is going on? We already know that South Yorkshire Probation Trust have jumped into bed with G4S in order to bid for running HMP Lindholme, along with HMP Moorland and HMP Hatfield. You will recall that for their pains the governing Governor threw all the probation staff out due to a 'conflict of interest'. I wonder what will happen to probation staff at Durham prison? And if they win the bid, what will happen to probation staff currently employed by other Services at all the prisons involved?
According to Jonathan Ledger, NAPO's General Secretary, Durham Teeside felt it better 'to jump rather than wait to be pushed' as competition is 'inevitable.' What a dogs breakfast this is all turning into. No longer a unified Service, but everyone for themselves!