A British multinational outsourcing company that operates prisons and immigration jails in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Serco Group PLC is a UK-based company that provides outsourcing services to government agencies and corporations around the world. The company operates in five sectors: military, prisons & immigration detention, transportation, and health services. Serco has over 50,000 employees and manages over 500 contracts. In 2018, the company’s total revenue was approximately $3.6 billion. Serco’s “Justice” and “Immigration” business portfolios, which include prisons, immigration jails, and detainee transport and monitoring, constitute 17 percent of its total revenue as of 2018. The company tried and failed to enter the U.S. immigration detention business. Serco is also one of the world’s top 100 military contractors and its military contracts constituted 30 percent of its total 2018 revenue.
Managing Prisons and Immigration Jails in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand
Serco is one of the main companies that manage prisons and immigration jails in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The company’s facilities in all three countries have been criticized for inhumane conditions and abuses, including sexual assault. Some of these findings caused the company to lose its contracts.
In the UK, Serco manages six prisons with a total capacity of 5,400 people: Ashfield, Doncaster, Dovegate, Lowdham Grange, and Thameside in England; and Kilmarnock in Scotland. The company has also been managing Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Center in Bedfordshire, England since 2007. This $76.9 million contract was last renewed in 2015 and is set to expire in 2023. Serco also provides transportation services through its Prisoner Escort and Custody Services in the UK. Until 2013, the company provided electronic monitoring service in the UK, but it lost the contract after it was exposed for overcharging the British government.
In Australia, Serco manages the country’s largest prison, Acacia Prison in Western Australia, which has a capacity of 1,513 people. The company also manages the Southern Queensland Correctional Center in Western Australia, although the Western Australian government will take over operations of the prison in 2021 because an official investigation, which found that the number of assaults was higher in private prisons compared to state-run prisons. In 2017, Serco was chosen to build Australia’s largest prison, Clarence Correctional Centre, in New South Wales. The new prison is scheduled to open in 2020 under the company's management. Serco has also been managing twelve Australian immigration jails since 2009. This contract was last renewed in 2019 until 2021. In 2016, Serco attempted to replace Ferrovial as the operator of Australia’s off-shore immigration jails in Manus and Nauru Islands but it did not get the contract. The company also provides transportation services for prisons in Australia and did a pilot project of electronic monitoring for the Western Australia prison system.
In New Zealand, Serco designed, built, and currently operates the country’s newest prison, the 960-bed Kohuora Auckland South Corrections Facility. The prison opened in 2015 and is under a 25-year contract. Until 2016, Serco also managed the Mt. Eden prison, but it lost the contract when videos of a fight club in the facility, in which Serco guards participated, surfaced online.
Activities in the US
In North America, Serco’s activities focus on military, health services, transportation, and outsourced government services like managing retirement systems. In 2016, Serco extensively lobbied at both federal and local levels in an attempt to open an immigration jail for families in Texas but the company’s proposal was rejected. Serco’s largest U.S. client is the Department of Defense, which awarded the company over $3.6 billion in contracts between 2008 and 2019. In 2019, the company was awarded a $608 million contract with the U.S. Navy for command and control systems.
The company is also a major contractor of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Between 2008 and 2019, Serco was awarded DHS contracts worth a total of $590.26 million, most of which were for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Serco also has a few contracts with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), for things like engineering and technology support, software analysis and management, system design, and other technological support.
- In June 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.