Which of the West Midlands prisons are you waiting for?
The West Midlands, where the NHS is being forced to cut costs and the prisons are full, is one of the most expensive in the country, with a £40m price tag for a full-time correctional officer.
The number of people locked up there has doubled in recent years and the prison population has risen from 5,700 to 10,000 in the last decade.
But a study published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) this week suggests that despite its size and high costs, the West Mercia prisons system is a success story in its own right.
What’s more, the report says that the cost of prisons has been falling for the past three years and that there is no reason why it cannot continue to do so.
IPPR has launched its new Prison Compare website which has become a hotbed for prisoners’ voices.
It has found that the West End and the HMP Barnet are both holding down their costs and have reduced their prison populations.
However, its also found that some of the prisons in the Midlands have risen in cost, even as other regions have remained flat or even fallen.
IPPR’s chief executive, Dr Peter Kellner, said: We are all in favour of the idea that if we do what’s best for us, then there’s no reason that we should go anywhere else.
The report, Prison Compare: A Prison Economist’s Look at Costs, Demographics and Performance, examines the cost and performance of some of West Midlands’ prisons and jails and the role that cost plays in determining which facilities are in demand and which are not.
“It shows there is a lot of variation in the way costs are charged and the quality of services available to prisoners, and it’s no surprise that there’s a lot more variation in costs across the West of England,” said Dr Kellner.
He said there is also a strong link between cost and quality of service and that a prison with a lower quality of care or a low proportion of staff will cost more.
As well as looking at costs, IPPR has looked at the performance of West Mercian prisons, where some prisons are still holding down costs.
Its study found that there was a very high proportion of prisoners serving a long term sentence for crimes they committed before they were sentenced, and a high proportion serving time for serious offences committed before that.
In contrast, the Midlands, which has seen its prison population rise from 5 and 10 per cent respectively, has seen a significant drop in the number of prisoners on remand.
And while West Midlands prison figures have remained stable, IPP says there has been a significant fall in the numbers of prisoners in care and supervision.
For example, there were 4,844 in care in May 2015 and there are currently 2,834.
But the report suggests that the problem of overcrowding in prisons is far from fixed.
Some inmates have started to be transferred to a care facility and some prisoners are still in care facilities, but the report found that in each of the three years to June 2015, the number in care was at least twice as high as it had been in 2010.
So while there are some prisons which are holding down the cost, it appears that the quality and quantity of care and custody available to inmates is improving.
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