July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour
Spending on the prison and probation system in England and Wales has grown by 36 percent in real terms since 2004 despite a major reorganisation that was meant to save money, according to a new report from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS), an independent charity that engages with the worlds of research and policy, practice and campaigning.
'Prison and probation expenditure 1999 - 2009' found that spending on the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) - which combines the costs of operating the prison, probation and headquarters function - rose in real terms from £3.6 billion in 2004/05 to £4.9 billion in 2008/09.
Despite this significant increase in expenditure, frontline resources have been increasingly overstretched. Public prisons have experienced successive annual real terms cuts in expenditure per prisoners since 2006 and overcrowding has increased.
In probation, key frontline staffing groups peaked in 2006 and have since declined in the face of a continuing rise in the number of people subject to probation supervision.
The report also found that there were significant gaps in the information necessary to establish a comprehensive picture of prison and probation costs, making an informed public debate on penal expenditure very difficult.
The lack of detailed cost breakdowns in publicly available reports means it is impossible to establish spending trends on key investments such as ITC, accredited programmes, or the cost of the three major reorganisations in this period.
The report highlights the following key areas:
- Between 2003/04 and 2008/09 prison expenditure in England and Wales increased by 38.9 percent in real terms, from £2.868 bn to £3.982 bn (Table 1, page 46). This followed a real terms decline of 3.2 percent between 1998/99 and 2002/03 (Table 2, page 47). Figures for these two periods are not directly comparable due to different collation methods.
- Between 1998 and 2008 the average annual prison population grew by 26.5 percent.
- Staffing in the public prison system (disaggregated staffing figures which include private prisons are not readily publicly available) grew by 19.7 percent between 1998/99 and 2008/09
- The average capital building cost per prison place increased by 66.3 percent in real terms between 1998/99 and 2008/09, from £85,397 to £142,000 (Table 10, page 52).
- Between 2000/01 and 2007/08 real terms expenditure on probation grew by 50 percent, from £665 m to £1 bn (Table 4, page 48).
- Between 1998 and 2009 the average annual number of people subject to probation supervision grew by 38.7 percent.
- Total probation staff grew by 46 percent between 1998 and 2008. Frontline staff grew by 64.8 percent during this period, though they have declined by 17.4 percent since 2006. There were fewer frontline probation staff in 2008 than there were in 2003.
Dr Roger Grimshaw, CCJS director of research and a report co-author, commented:
`Prison and probation expenditure has increased dramatically over the past decade. Yet the frontline is running to catch up with demand. How sustainable or desirable is this spending in the age of austerity and how realistic are the current demands placed on the criminal justice system?'
'Prison and probation expenditure, 1999-2009', by Helen Mills, Arianna Silvestri and Dr Roger Grimshaw, is based on detailed analysis of publicly available data.The report is the second in a three part series on criminal justice expenditure between 1999 and 2009, funded by the Hadley Trust.
Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, added:
`This report documents in great detail Labour's audacious agenda to expand the size and reach of the prison and probation service. Its legacy is record expenditure, an overstretched workforce and an overburdened system. The current financial crisis offers a rare opportunity to rethink some basic assumptions about the size and scale of the prison and probation services and the demands we place on the staff working in them.'