Cost of keeping prisoners in jail falls as staff take pay cut
THE average cost of keeping a prisoner in jail has dropped significantly in the past year.
The main reason for the fall is the pay cut imposed on prison staff and the public-service ban on recruitment and promotion.
A big increase in the numbers being locked up also contributed to keeping the average cost down. Figures produced by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern in the Dail yesterday showed that the average cost of providing a prison space in 2008 was €92,717. But this fell by €15,495, or 17pc, last year to €77,222.
The Dail also heard that the number of sick days taken by staff had fallen from 81,503 in 2005 to 58,515 last year, a decrease of 22,988 days, despite a big increase in the number of employees. This worked out at an average of 26.49 days a year per staff member in 2005, falling to 17.25 last year.
Mr Ahern said the decrease in average costs of a staffed prison space was the result of a 5pc reduction in total costs, due primarily to a €15.5m drop in salary, combined with a 14pc increase in available spaces.
He said the extra spaces resulted from the opening of new blocks at Castlerea (116) and Portlaoise (200), in addition to other capacity-increasing projects across the prisons.
A breakdown of the figures shows the biggest fall in costs was in the high-security prisons, where the 2008 figure of €155,306 was more than halved last year to €75,892.