Value For Money? by David Breakspear

In my experience, during this journey of a reformed man, I have come to realise, that, to some in society, it matters not how much an individual, being released from prison, has turned their life around and rehabilitated. Ready for life in the free world into the supporting arms of an accepting society! Surely that should be the case, should it not? Isn’t that why we have a prison system.

IPP prisoners campaign

To hold those punished by the courts so that they are, indeed, punished and serve penance for their infraction of the rules in this accepting society, who stand up to all their obligations of social policy? So, let’s look at things from another perspective, cost, or waste as I believe.

“Between 2005 and 2012, when the sentences were abolished, 8,711 prisoners were given IPP’s. The majority of those had tariffs of four years or less, which in itself showed that the offences were not on the scale of seriousness that IPPs were supposedly brought in for.”

Source: Accessed 22/12/2018

Let us not be concerned that a sentence no longer exists, yet our system still holds thousands on that sentence, most way past tariff, the reasons for protecting the public appear somewhat tepid, especially when the onus is on the system to prove that the individual is still a risk past tariff. I refuse to believe that of those over IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection sentence) tariff, all are still high risk, the ones pre-2008, still serving, the more so.
It was introduced, by then home secretary, David Blunkett for the most serious of violent or sexual offences, and yet the judiciary interpreted it their way and started giving out 28-day tariffs, in the most ludicrous time between 2005-2008.
It was only a change in the sentencing guidelines that stopped the judges from misusing this draconian way of dealing with persistent offenders. At a conservative guesstimate I’d say around 2,500 IPP’s, who are way beyond tariff, are still serving. Using the lowest figure from the statistical information below of £24,151 x 2,500 = £60,377,500.
Also, let us not be concerned that around 61,500 people were sent to prison to serve a sentence according to figures up to June 2018, of those 47% were sentenced to 6 months or less. [1] Before we look at the actual cost of warehousing, sorry, overcrowding. Let us first look at the cost of holding those sentenced to six months or less.
47% of 61,500 = 28,905, now by taking the lowest average figure from the table below of £24,151, the cost of holding those deemed such a risk to society and sentenced to less than six months comes out at £698,084,655. I’d only ask for around 5% – 7% of that figure to work with those 28,905 and I would guarantee value for money, and a reduction in reoffending rates.

With the overcrowding issue still not in the mix, let us next look at the situation of those on remand: 33,235 up to June 2018 were placed on remand. [2]


One in 10 people remanded into custody by magistrates’ courts were subsequently acquitted. A further 14% received a non-custodial sentence. In the crown court, both of these figures were 13%. [1]

Table Q4.4, Ministry of Justice (2018) Criminal justice statistics quarterly: June 2018, London: Ministry of Justice

So, 10% of 33,235 = 3,323 (rounded down) at the £24,151 rate is another £80,253,773, unnecessarily, being spent. Then, 14% = 4,652 (again rounded down) that’s another £112,350,452 down the drain. Total of £190,604,225. Add on the crown court costs, which means we can, at least, double that figure for a conservative total of £385,208,450. Expensive game banging up people just because you can, don’t you think?
Before we get to overcrowding let us take a look at the running total so far:

IPP’s: £60,377,500.

<Six months: £698,084,655.

Remands: £385,208,450.

Total: £1,143,670,605.

The figures below show that the prison system is running at 6,845 over CNA (Certified Normal Accommodation). At the usual figure of £24,151, that’s another £165,313,595.

2017-18 Totals [3]

Certified Normal Accommodation (CNA): 77,865

Average Population: 84,710

Direct Resource Expenditure: £2,045,831,827

Cost per Place: £26,274

Cost per Prisoner: £24,151

Overall Resource Expenditure: £3,180,266,865

Cost per Place: £40,843

Cost per Prisoner: £37,543

Using the most basic of mathematics, one can see at a glance, that the prison system is far from efficient, but is that really all prisons fault. The courts have to also toe the line when it comes to using custody, especially with so many other, cost-effective, alternative punishments available to them. The use of remand needs closer investigation as well. Total £1,308,984,200.

Value for money?


[1] Table 2.5a and 2.5b Ministry of Justice (2018) Offender management statistics quarterly: April to June 2018, London: Ministry of Justice. Accessed 22/12/2018.

[2] Table 2.4a, Ministry of Justice (2018) Offender management statistics quarterly: April to June 2018, London: Ministry of Justice.



Click to Download: 'Costs per place and costs per prisoner by individual prison'
Click to Download: ‘Costs per place and costs per prisoner by individual prison’