Prisoners: Costs

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 29th November 2016.

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Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP 3:15 pm, 29th November 2016

T2. Mr Wells asked the Minister of Justice to outline the average cost of housing a prisoner in a prison in Northern Ireland and to state how that compares with the equivalent cost in the rest of the United Kingdom. (AQT 567/16-21)

Photo of Claire Sugden Claire Sugden Independent

If the Principal Deputy Speaker will indulge me, I will respond to Mr Wells with a prepared response.

While the costs are not directly comparable, the average annual cost of keeping an offender in prison in Northern Ireland was £57,643. The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) figure in England and Wales was £35,182, and the cost for the Scottish Prison Service was £34,399 in the same year. The Northern Ireland Prison Service cost per prisoner place is higher than that in the rest of the UK as the same services must be provided in a relatively small prison population and, therefore, economies of scale lead to higher costs in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Those figures are quite shocking because they indicate that it costs 40% more to house a prisoner in Northern Ireland than in Scotland, where economies of scale must also prevail.

Photo of Caitriona Ruane Caitriona Ruane Deputy Speaker

Can the Member come his question, please?

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Will the Minister outline what plans she has to bring that figure down to the UK average?

Photo of Claire Sugden Claire Sugden Independent

I do not believe that the costs are directly comparable. Northern Ireland is quite different, given the challenges that we face: the extra costs relating to paramilitary prisoners. When we get outline business cases in place for the prison estate, we will start to see more savings and safer prisons in terms of sight lines and the other areas outlined in those outline business cases. Work is ongoing, and, hopefully, we can bring that figure down, but I do not believe that it is a fair comparison with other parts of the United Kingdom.