Contractor may join forces with controversial American company to pitch for PFI prison schemes in the UK

An American prison operator is in talks with Multiplex to bid for PFI prison contracts in the UK.

Mike Murphy, director of Management and Training Corporation of Utah, is in the UK this week to look at bids for schemes in Scotland. Possible targets include two new prisons in Scotland, one in West Lothian and one near Glasgow.

The Prison Service announced last year that it is to embark on a £3bn 10-year refurbishment programme of Britain’s prison network.

MTC hit the headlines in the USA last year after one of its directors, Lane McCotter, went on assignment to Iraq for the US government to help rebuild and open prisons there, including Abu Ghraib.

MTC’s record was tarnished after it was condemned by a US Justice Department report last year. The report criticised MTC over its standards of medical care at the Santa Fe prison, in New Mexico.

The report said: “We find that persons confined suffer harm or the risk of serious harm from deficiencies in the facility’s provision of medical and mental health care, suicide prevention, fire safety and sanitation.”

Carl Stuart, MTC corporate communication director, confirmed that the company was investigating the market in Europe generally, and London and Scotland in particular.

He said the company could not discuss specific projects in the UK because of contractual restrictions.

Stuart added there had been problems at the Santa Fe prison, which MTC had worked to resolve. He said: “We had our contract renewed by the state at the beginning of this month.”

We find persons confined suffer harm or the risk of serious harm

Justice Department report into MTC’s New Mexico prison

McCotter was part of a rebuilding team at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad from which pictures emerged of Iraqi prisoners being tortured and humiliated by US soldiers.

McCotter joined MTC after resigning his post as director of Utah department of correction in 1997 after a scandal over an alleged incident in a prison.

Stuart added that McCotter was chosen by the US government to work in Iraq because of his experience operating private prisons.

He said: “When Lane McCotter was in Iraq he was on an unpaid leave of absence. He is now back at MTC and is the director of marketing.”

Stuart said: “He had to look at how they could be rebuilt. He was also employed to train Iraqi people to work in the prisons. But he was not involved in the military training within the prisons.”

He added: “It is true he was involved in the opening of Abu Ghraib. He was there when it was opened in September 2003, as he was part of the rebuilding team.

Multiplex was unavailable to comment, however a senior company source confirmed that the contractor was in talks with MTC on a bid in Scotland.