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The Cost of Prisons


Our prison system was not built to hold nearly the amount of prisoners it currently does, let alone the predicted increasing numbers pushed even further by a global recession. Well over 70,000 people are being held in a system designed to hold around 50,000. Although the capacity of the penal system is being increased, the rise in the number of people within the system is outstripping the rate at which new places can be provided.

What price lack of freedom?

It costs £65,000 to imprison a person in this country once police, court costs and all the other steps are taken into account. After that it costs a further £40,000 for each year they spend incarcerated. If the growth in the prison population is not reversed then more prisons will have to be built, at a huge expense. This is without taking into account the effect on the economy which would be made by having another person in the working population, contributing to taxes rather than being a drain on them. If you want lower taxes then having a smaller tax burden split between more people is surely the way to achieve this.


Although prisoners are entitled to NHS care as with any other British citizen, the facilities within the prison system, simply because each prison cannot have its own hospital, mean that prisoners often have to be moved from one prison to another, or to an outside hospital for treatment. This not only costs yet more money in direct expenses (administration, transport, guarding a prisoner while at a general hospital and so on) but can lead to delays in treatment.

Even if you ignored the fact that offenders are human beings with rights just as any other, including the right to healthcare, there is the fact that this costs even more money. As has been said many times by the medical profession, with almost all illnesses prevention is cheaper and more effective than treatment, and early treatment is cheaper and more effective than late. The cost of giving someone a course of antibiotics versus the cost of emergency surgery because those antibiotics were not prescribed is an astronomical difference.

Retraining and employment versus reoffending

Imagine if, allowing for 20,000 who are not suited or unwilling to undergo training, just 50,000 of those 70,000+ people received training when they were in prison, and along with the courses to manage and change their behaviour were given the opportunity of employment when they came out.

Without that training, statistics show us that 75% of this 50,000 (that’s 37,500) will reoffend and thus end up back in prison. With it, they could find jobs, buy homes and their taxes could be used to pay for more hospitals, rather than the extra prisons which would no longer be needed to house them. The £2,437,500,000 it would cost to put these people back in prison could be used to build schools and the £1,500,000,000 per year it would cost to keep them in prison could be used to run these new schools so that more children will grow up with a good education and not see crime as their only option.