Abu Ghraib Prison Firm Seeks British Contract

Chutzpah department: the Management and Training Corporation (MTC), a Utah corporation selected by John Ashcroft to run the Abu Ghraib prison is bidding on contracts to run British prisons.

After Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled, John Ashcroft, the US attorney general, put MTC director Lane McCotter in charge of reopening Iraq's prison system. He helped to rebuild Abu Ghraib and trained Iraqi citizens to work in prisons.

McCotter, a Vietnam veteran, has a chequered record of running US jails. In 1997 he was forced to resign as a senior prison official in Utah after a scandal surrounding the death of a mentally ill inmate strapped naked to a chair for 16 hours. This year, Schumer wrote to Ashcroft, asking why someone with McCotter's controversial history was sent to Iraq.

Last year MTC was criticised by the US Justice Department over its management of Santa Fe prison in New Mexico which was found to have unsafe conditions and lack adequate medical care for inmates. The company said the problems have been resolved and it has had its contract renewed.

British prisons are plagued with problems, but as Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said:

'The government is in cloud-cuckoo-land if it thinks privatising prisons will solve the mess. The problems of suicides, overcrowding and reoffending will not be solved by bringing in a private company from the US.'

You can read more about Ashcroft and McCotter, and McCotter's past record here.

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