On the 15th and 16th of November, the European Custody and Detention Summit is taking place at The Tower of London, described by the organisers as ‘the world’s original high security prison’.

The summit poses as a forum for providers and policy makers to share best practice and discuss the future of custody and detention. It is being supported by a number of penal reform organisations.

A closer look at the agenda and list of participants indicates that this event is not about progressive reform and social justice – this conference is about promoting the penal industrial complex. In reality, the Custody and Detention Summit is a trade fair for security companies, prison builders, and other profiteers to present new technologies that expand and privatise the criminal justice system.

Join us on 15 November calling for a complete halt to this event. We want an immediate end to profiteering that contributes to the expansion of unjust, racist, classist and sexist systems of punishment and detention.

Check out our Facebook page for updates on banner-making (Sunday 6 November) and demo (Tuesday 15 November).


The summit is being organised by “International Research Networks”, organisers of fossil fuel and arms trade meetings such as the West Africa Oil & Gas Security Summit and the Eastern Europe Defence Summit. In the past, G4S and Thales have sponsored their events and security companies like these are likely to be in attendance that this event.

The European Custody and Detention Summit website tells us that;

“Over two days on 15th & 16th November in London, more than 250 leaders from across the European custody & detention sectors will hear from over 35 speakers, take part in workshops & roundtables, with technology demonstrations and extensive networking opportunities.”

It is a business-networking opportunity costing private sector attendees £1595 to go. The companies participating in the event are key players in developing the technology and providing privatised services for policing, prison management and building, and border control.

The publicised technologies on show include:

  • Surveillance (CCTV, Thermal, X-ray full body screening)
  • Biometrics
  • ‘screening visitors and suppliers to detention facilities.
  • Electronic Tagging
  • Demonstration of ‘anti-drone technology’, new ‘prison infrastructure’ and ‘tracking technology’.

The publicised sessions include:

  • Securing safe transfer and transportation of people in custody
  • ‘the noble art of governing prisons’
  • ‘public procurement in the European Custody and Detention Sectors’.
  • Surveillance technology in custody

Stop the privatisation of criminal justice

  • The UK has the highest per capita number of private prisons in the world. The private sector are responsible for delivering services across the criminal justice system to include policing, custody, prisoner transportation, court services, children’s prisons, probation – the list is endless.
  • This event will enable more profit to be made from the punishment, incarceration, surveillance, detention and deportation of people.
  • Privatisation not only reduces accountability within the criminal justice system but creates a profit incentive to draw more people into systems of punishment.

Stop the expansion of prisons

  • The expansion of private prisons has coincided with a rapid expansion in the prison population in the last 25 years.
  • The criminal justice system disproportionately targets working class people and people of colour. For example, in 2010 the proportion of black and minority ethnic people in prison in the UK was almost seven times the percentage of black people in the general population, whereas in the US the proportion of black prisoners is four times greater than the percentage of black people in the population.
  • This conference is about ‘maintaining and developing custody and detention facilities’ – however, the only way to reduce the racialised and classed violence and deaths in custody is to drastically reduce the number of people in prison.

Stop the expansion criminal justice.

  • Under the guise of restorative justice and prison alternatives, new technologies of surveillance and state have widened the reach of criminal justice. These technologies often extend the powers of the Criminal Justice system rather than replace more punitive measures.

Stop criminalised border enforcement

  • Border enforcement is a heavily privatised form of policing that imprisons 30,000 people per year in administrative detention. This exposes people to the violence of imprisonment and forced transportation purely on the basis of race and immigration status.

Oppose the European Penal Industrial Complex Summit

What is the penal industrial complex? 

“Throughout the criminal justice system, combinations of state bodies and voluntary sector organisations have increasingly been joined by private sector companies to manage and deliver services. Academics and activists have labelled this expanding marketplace as the “prison industrial complex”. Empty Cages Collective describe the prison industrial complex as not just prisons, but the “mutually reinforcing web of relationships, between and not limited to, for example, prisons, the probation service, the police, the courts, all the companies that profit from transporting, feeding and exploiting prisoners”.

Globally the prison industrial complex is a multi-billion pound industry that draws together private and government interests. It profits from using policing, prisons and punishment as a response to social, political and economic problems. It is a self-perpetuating system targeting the poor, people of colour and those most vulnerable to detainment, such as those experiencing mental health, drug or alcohol problems. It reinforces and recreates inequalities, ensuring there is an endless supply of people to feed into the criminal justice system”
(Don’t blame us, blame the prison system)