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Prison Is Expensive

Prison is extremely expensive - during 2003-2004, it cost an average of £27,320 per year to keep someone in prison. Furthermore, to build a new prison costs the equivalent of 2 district hospitals or 60 primary schools. But one must also factor in the cost of crime, which is frequently ignored by many media organisations and pressure groups.

The Home Office has warned that the prison population could increase by more 37,000 by the end of the decade. If the predictions are correct income tax would need to increase by two and a half pence to cover the £3.5 billion cost.

However, the cost of crime is considerably more and could easily absorb this increase in tax.

In 2000, The Home Office estimated the cost of crime at £60bn. Taking inflation into account, it's £3,000 pa for every household. Considering the average wage is only £18,961 (median) or £23,400 (mean), that accounts for a 16 pence (median) or 13 pence (mean) increase in income tax.

So if one takes a purely economic perspective, prisons are not as expensive as crime.


Also, that £60bn takes no account of the £30bn pa we're spending on our Criminal Justice system. So you could argue the total cost of crime is closer to £100bn pa.

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Thanks Wat - I'll add this to the article soon.

Have had a think about it, and I am not sure we can include the criminal justice system as well. You see, the liklihood of being sentenced to prison does not decrease crime if the liklihood of getting caught in the first place plummets. Without police, prison's wouldn't work.

It is a good point, but needs some more thought.

Why is there £60 billion of crime being committed? A larger prison estate will not reduce this cost, it will just add another £3.5 billion to the overall cost. It is wrong to assume that more people in prison reduces crime, all this does is put more people in prison.

John - The evidence says that, when coupled with effective policing, prisons reduce crime. We don't make the assumption you claim.

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