The word privatisation is loaded with political overtones and there will always be debate over the merits of the public or private sector running certain services.
The recent sell-off of Royal Mail is a case in point, hitting the headlines again this week.
But private prisons seem to be an odd choice as it is difficult to see how it best serves the public for custody to be run for profit.
We were sceptical about the takeover of HMP Northumberland by private firm Sodexo, even more so when it was announced that up to 200 jobs could be cut.
So far, so normal. But when, as a local newspaper, you have prison officers and staff contacting you to voice their concerns – a very rare occurrence previously – then you know that something is up.
Both our MP, Sir Alan Beith, and the county council’s administration have said that they want to get to the bottom of last week’s incident and the wider issues at HMP Northumberland, so let’s hope that they can find some sort of way forward that ensures the prison is run safely.