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Prisoners (Costs)

Volume 974: debated on Wednesday 21 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what it will cost at the present rate to keep in prison the four men recently sentenced at Stafford crown court for the murder of Carl Bridgewater; and, on the assumption that the average increase costs of keeping a prisoner in prison during the past five years continues in the future, to what extent the costs will rise on the assumption that in each instance these men are imprisoned for the full period of their sentence.

Two men and a youth were convicted of the murder of Carl Bridgewater; one man was convicted of manslaughter. The two men were sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that they be detained for a minimum of 25 years; it cannot be assumed that they will be released in 25 years' time. The youth was sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure.Based on an estimate of the total expenditure in England and Wales on prisons in 1978–79, the average annual cost of keeping a person in prison is about £5,800. The average annual rise in these costs over the past five years has been around 17 per cent. But bearing in mind the preponderance of fixed costs in a prison service dealing with a population of some 42,000 it would not be meaningful to use this figure—with or without any hypothetical assumptions on inflation—as a basis for calculating the additional cost of keeping four extra prisoners for any specific period.