Concerns have been raised that Leeds Prison could be left out of a much vaunted payment-by-results scheme after the Government announced it was putting the initiative on hold.
The Armley jail was due to be the first public sector prison to pilot payment-by-results – under which financial rewards and penalties are based on the number of prisoners who re-offend.
But the new justice secretary Chris Grayling said he was pausing the flagship scheme to “consider the strategic direction of reforms to the wider justice system”.
He has not said when a decision will be made about the future of payment-by-results.
Charity the Howard League for Penal Reform said there were concerns Mr Grayling would drop the scheme at Leeds Prison in favour of rolling it out in the private sector.
A similar system is already in place at privately-run Doncaster Prison.
Andrew Nielson, director of campaigns for the Howard League, said: “One theory is that Mr Grayling sees much bigger involvement for the private sector and doesn’t actually like the idea that the public sector is involved in these pilots.
“That would be disappointing because we don’t see why innovation like this should be the provenance only of the private sector.”
The Government’s announcement came after it had invited bids from external “prime provider” companies to help implement the scheme in Leeds.
Mr Nielson added: “It must be very frustrating for people working locally with Leeds Prison to be marching to one tune, only for that to be ditched.”
Avanta, which helps people get back to work, was one of the companies which submitted a bid.
Marketing director Janet Davies said: “While it’s disappointing and you put a lot of effort into these bids and you think everything is going well, you have to respect the fact there will be changes when a new minister comes in.”
Justice minister Jeremy Wright said the Government was committed to seeing payment-by-results rolled out by 2015. He added: “This is a complex area of work that has the potential to transform our approach to cutting crime and rehabilitating offenders and it is important we get it right.”