Councils should cover costs of prison places, report says

A new report conducted by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has called for councils to be given control of the £400 million prison budget for low-risk offenders to reduce the risk of reoffending. 

The report, entitled ‘Prisons and Prevention: Giving local areas the power to reduce offending’, urges that ‘radical’ action must be taken to tackle the rate of offending, especially following the news of future cuts to the Ministry of Justice’s budget. It advises that many low-level offenders end up in prison because of social problems such as drug addiction and mental health problems. 

However, councils cannot intervene effectively because they do not have the financial incentive or resources needed to reduce the prison population.The analysis cites the justice systems of New York and Ohio which have devolved the budget for prison places to local districts and courts, enabling councils to cover the cost of sending extra people to prison. It suggests a similar model should be applied to England and Wales, adding that any savings could be reinvested in community services and justice. 

Jonathan Clifton, associate director for public services at IPPR, said: “Our court system is clogged-up, our prisons are overflowing and we have the highest reoffending rate in Western Europe. Reform is desperately needed to reduce offending.

“We need to free up cash that is frozen in the prison system, and give it to local areas to invest in tackling the social problems that drive reoffending such as lack of qualifications, mental health problems and homelessness.”