Why the prison system needs reform

The prison population is at an all time high

  • The UK is one of the most punitive nations in Western Europe.
  • In England and Wales imprisoned 154 people per 100,000 population.
  • The prison population in England and Wales hit an all time high of 85,494 prisoners on 1 October 2010.
  • Between 1995 and 2009, the prison population increased by 66%, this is a real increase of 32,500.
  • The rapid growth in the prison population has not been fuelled by escalating crime rates nor by an increase in the number of offenders appearing before the courts. Rather, harsher sentencing has resulted in our ever-escalating prison population.

Prison is not being used as a last resort

  • Ministry of Justice data reveals that around two thirds of people on remand committed non-violent offences (i.e. offences that did not involve violence, sex or robbery).
  • Around half of children in prison were imprisoned for non-violent crimes.
  • 30% of people remanded to prison in 2007 were subsequently given a non-custodial sentence.

Prison is expensive

  • The average cost of a prison place is £45,000.
  • To build a new prison costs the equivalent of 2 district hospitals or 60 primary schools.

Prison is not working

  • 49% of all prisoners released were reconvicted within one year. For those serving sentences of less than 12 months this increases to 61%.
  • 74% of children released from custody in 2008 reoffended within a year.

Prison is a brutalising and damaging experience

  • In 2010, 58 people killed themselves in prison service care. This included 4 people under the age of 21 and 25 people in prison on remand.
  • Since their inception two children have died in Secure Training Centres and since 2004 17 children have killed themselves in the custody of a young offender’s institution.
  • In 2009/10 there were 6,904 reported incidents of restraint used on children in custody.
  • Data shows that in 2009 there were 24,114 incidents of self-harm in English and Welsh prisons.