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Future Prisons

A radical plan to reform the prison estate

How can one prison cost £108,000 per place to run, when another establishment, performing exactly the same functions, costs just £26,000 per place? Why do some prisoners serve their sentence in damp Victorian dungeons hundreds of miles from their homes, when others can take advantage of modern facilities properly geared towards reducing reoffending?

In this paper, we will demonstrate that these kinds of variations are widespread across the prison estate – driven by structural deficiencies in a system that is skewed towards older, inefficient and hard-to-maintain establishments that are often in the wrong places. We argue that, as a result, the current prison estate is unjustifiably expensive and not fit for purpose in the 21st century.

We outline a blueprint for a radical and ambitious transformation of the prison estate which, if adopted, would deliver year-on-year savings of more than £600m a year – equivalent to around 20% of the prison service’s annual running costs, or around 9% of the Ministry of Justice’s entire budget. Our plan would also lead to a wide range of other significant economic and social benefits.