Government "Widly Out of Touch" with Prison Crisis Cost to South Wales Police

September 25, 2007 12:00 AM

Today, Jenny Willott MP accused the Government of being wildly out of touch with the true cost to South Wales Police (SWP) of housing prisoners in police cells.

The Home Office estimate that it costs £385 to keep a convicted prisoner in a police cell overnight under 'Operation Safeguard'*. However, Jenny has obtained figures through a Freedom of Information request, showing that SWP have had to spend nearly £1,400 for each of the 600 times their police cells have been used to house prisoners since the start of the year to June 18th - a total cost of over £800,000.

The figures show:

· Employing civilian detention officers cost over £400,000;

· Police overtime cost over £270,000;

· Transporting prisoners cost over £36,000;

· Prisoner meals cost nearly £4,000;

· Cleaning and medical expenses have come to over £16,000;

Commenting, Jenny Willott, Welsh Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, said:

"The Labour Government is wildly out of touch with the knock-on effects of their self-inflicted prison crisis on South Wales Police.

"Housing prisoners in police cells is costing South Wales Police more than three times what the Government said it would cost.

"As the prison crisis deepens, South Wales Police have been forced to take on more and more prisoners as jails are filled to bursting. At the start of the year, they were looking after maybe 1 prisoner a day. By June, this had jumped to nearly 10 a day.

"The costs to South Wales Police have jumped too, from £25,000 per month at the start of the year to £165,000 a month and the costs are continuing to rise.

"This money is not being spent on any sort of useful work, like drug rehabilitation or skills training, that actually help to reduce the chances of reoffending. It is effectively paying for babysitting services - overtime, takeaway meals, fetching & carrying and medicine.

"Increasingly, South Wales Police are being forced to take on the role of prison wardens and to focus resources and man power away from doing their specialised job of fighting crime.

"This mess is a direct result of Labour's head-in-the-sand approach to the rising prison population, their addiction to law-making and their blind devotion to the prison system.

"Our prisons are full and overspill places in police and court cells are rapidly filling up. Two-thirds of prisoners recommit crimes within two years of release. And to keep up with our ever-growing prison population, we will have to build thousands of new prison places on top of those already planned.

"This is not a sustainable situation. If we really want to keep people safe, our police must be free to focus on crime prevention, and our justice system must have the resources and flexibility to tackle the causes of crime as well as punish it. Sadly, the Government has focused its efforts solely on the latter."

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