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Wednesday 28 June 2017

Cost of locking up prisoners down by €15,000 per inmate

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

THE cost of housing a prisoner has fallen by more than €15,000 per inmate, according to a new report published this week.

The average cost of an available prison space last year was €77,222, provisional figures contained in the annual report of the Irish Prison Service (IPS) will claim.

This compares to €92,717 in 2008 -- a decrease of €15,495 (16.7pc).

The IPS attributes the drop to a drastic reduction in pay costs and an increased bed capacity in prisons.

Total costs savings of €17.7m have been achieved, of which €15.5m relate to pay costs.

An increase in bed capacity from 3,611 at the end of 2008 to 4,106 at the end of 2009 has also led to cost reductions, according to the IPS.

However, the figures have been hotly contested by prison campaigners. The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) insisted the new costs figures should be treated with caution as 2009 was a record year for overcrowding in Irish prisons.

Staffing costs were also reduced last year as a result of pay cuts and the hiring freeze in the public sector.

"These figures need to be challenged in a fundamental way," IPRT executive director Liam Herrick told the Irish Independent.

"They do not necessarily reflect genuine costs efficiencies in circumstances where the reduced cost of housing a prisoner lies in more prisoners supervised by less staff. That is not a cost reduction and to represent this reduction as progress would border on the ridiculous."

Labour Party justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte also said the public service pay cuts and the jobs moratorium had led to a huge reduction in costs which could not be translated into a good news story about reducing costs .

"That is making a silk purse out of a sow's ear," Mr Rabbitte said.

"Of course, the cost per prisoner is going to come down. It does not take a genius to work out that if you overcrowd prisons with less staff you will get more bang for your buck."

Irish Independent

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