Serco Group PLC

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A British multinational public services company. Operates private prison and detention centers in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Serco Group PLC provides outsourcing services to governments, agencies, and corporations around the world. Serco has 50,000 employees and manages 600 contracts. In 2016, Serco’s total revenue was approximately £3.5 billion ($4.71 billion).

Immigration Detention Centers

As of September 2017, Serco manages no prison facilities or immigration detention centers in the U.S. However, in 2016, Serco began lobbying the federal and local governments for contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), including a family immigrant detention center that houses women and children in Duval County. In July 2016, Duval County officials voted to partner with Serco to operate a facility within the city.

In 2016, Serco also began lobbying federal and local governments to operate a family immigration detention center in San Diego, Texas. The facility would house women and children. In July 2016, local government officials unanimously voted to partner with Serco to operate the facility. However, In March 2017, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) dropped plans to build a family detention center due to border apprehensions being at an all-time low.

Prison Facilities Outside the U.S.

Serco manages private prison facilities in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. In New Zealand, Serco managed two prison facilities until 2016, when it lost one of its contracts due to accusations of inadequate staffing, poor kitchen sanitation, and denying incarcerated people basic rights, such as access to phone calls. In addition, videos of a fight club within the facility, in which Serco guards participated, surfaced online. As of 2016, Serco has one contract in New Zealand for Auckland South, which has been ranked one of the worst prisons in New Zealand.

In the UK, which has the second largest private prison population in the world, Serco manages five prison facilities and one immigrant detention centers. These facilities ten fall to the lowest ratings in the nation and are consistently overcrowded and understaffed. While private prison companies are required through their contract to meet certain standards and pay a fee if these standards are not met, this is rarely enforced. The immigrant detention center operated by Serco has faced allegations of human rights abuses, including sexual abuse, deaths, and keeping children in “extremely distressing” conditions. Despite these allegations, Serco’s contract was renewed for over $100 million in 2014.

In Australia, Serco manages two facilities and will open a new one in 2020 that is expected to be the largest correctional facility in Australia. The private facilities in Australia are often criticized for their lack of transparency. While the Australian government and the private prison companies argue that private facilities reduce recidivism, activists argue that there is no evidence supporting that claim.

Electronic Monitoring and Transportation Services Outside the U.S.

Serco is one of the two companies providing the UK government electronic monitoring devices. In 2013, it was discovered that Serco had been overcharging the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) by millions for its services by falsifying the billing of thousands of electronic tags. Although the MOJ immediately terminated the contract, Serco was still receiving payments in 2015 for the fraudulent charges.

Serco also provides transportation services through its Prisoner Escort and Custody Services (PECS). Serco’s PECS operates in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and within Serco’s Middle East Region. PECS has a consistent record of placing security guards and incarcerated people in danger. In 2014, nineteen incarcerated people and immigrant detainees have escaped while in PECS custody. In June 2015, a custody guard working in Serco’s transportation escort services died from injuries incurred while transporting a prisoner. After several accounts of attacks on prison guards, Serco has had trouble recruiting new prison guards.

Department of Defense Contracts

Between 2009 and 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense contracted with Serco for $2.7 billion. The contract included testing equipment used to screen sensitive electronics from nuclear detonation.

Economic Activism Highlights
  • On June 12, 2017, Swedish Bank SEB added Serco in its no-buy-list. The bank declared that it is removing from all its funds forty companies "that violate international standards for the environment, corruption, human rights and labor law." The bank had previously stopped investing in companies involved in nuclear programs and in coal production.
This profile was last updated on
16 May 2018