The Rising Cost of Crime: Prison is More Expensive Than Luxury UK Hotels
Regardless of the statistical analysis regularly released by the British government, showing a decline in crime levels overall, figures suggest quite the opposite — prison numbers are rising significantly. How will this affect the costs of keeping more people in prison in the long-term and where will the deficits be felt the most?
According to the online prison reform blog Focus Prisoner Education, the UK — as well as other international prison systems — are not built to hold nearly as much as the current number of prisoners. The numbers are expected to increase even further as a result of recessions in various countries and the overall levels of economic inequality in society as a whole.
Following a Freedom of Information (FoI) request made to London’s Metropolitan Police in 2015, certain media reports stated that the cost to the UK taxpayer for holding someone for up to 12 hours in custody was around US$315 (£248) per detainee, which works out at nearly US$636 (£500) per day.
That is equivalant — and in a lot of cases — even more expensive than a 5 star luxury hotel would charge per night. The cost of prison stay amounts to a minimum of around US$84,000 (£65,000) per year, according to studies.
“Under the banner of the ‘simplification of criminal justice,’ considerations of cost and speed which are pressing in all criminal justice systems have led to the development of various methods of diversion from the formal criminal process. The aim of this is to help reduce overall spending within the justice systems,” Michael May, a lawyer with Edwards & Co legal firm in Ireland told me.
But these costs, if investigated a little further, may appear to have diverted and are accountable for by the partnership services working alongside the courts, however still incur additional financial charges that would have partly been granted by the overall national criminal justice budgets too.
Michael May also provided his own estimations on the costings side and told me:
“In the UK it is estimated that each new prison place costs as much as £119,000 [US$151,000] and that the annual average cost for each prisoner exceeds £40,000, [US$51,000] so it is no surprise that a shift in attitude is increasingly being welcomed by courts and prisons. It is also true that prisons are overcrowded, which is becoming a pressing issue and has forced this reconsideration on the welfare side for prisoners,”
Mr. May told me, providing his own estimations. Any broader attempts at reducing prison costs or cutting long-term budgets in order to cater for the rise in numbers are said to put prison populations at risk. The UK charity Samaritans, has been calling for government action to tackle the rates of self-harm and suicide in jails in England and Wales which is said to be one of many negative by-products of an overstretched and under-resourced system.
I also previously interviewed the director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, Andrew Neilson, who said that, “the problems to be found in overcrowded prisons can be overcome.”
“But it will require imaginative thinking and bold action by the powers that be to stop throwing so many people into these failing institutions. “Here [in the UK] they are predominantly swept away into deeper currents of crime and into wider social detriment to themselves due to the inhumane conditions in which they are then kept.”