Huge drop in cost of jailing someone in NI

The costs of jailing someone in Northern Ireland have dropped dramatically over the course of the past decade, the News Letter can reveal.

The cost per prison place per year in Northern Ireland stands at an estimated £44,112 for the 2019/20 financial year.

This represents a significant decrease on the costs in 2010/11, when the figure stood at £73,762.

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The recent figure was revealed by Justice Minister Naomi Long in response to a written question from South Down MLA Jim Wells.

Last year, in 2018/19, it cost £54,893 to jail someone for a year in Northern Ireland — compared to £43,213 in England and Wales and £40,175 in Scotland.

Mr Wells said: “While there is still some room for improvement, the costs are heading in the right direction.

“It has always been argued that our costs are higher due to the presence of high-risk paramilitary prisoners.

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“Their number has fallen but the major change has been the voluntary redundancy scheme which took a large number of experienced, well paid officers out of the workforce.

“They were replaced by younger officers who came in lower on the pay scale.”

Former justice minister Claire Sugden said: “It is good that the prison service are making efficiencies.”

The East Londonderry MLA added: “However, I would hope we still have a full capacity of officers and that their salaries reflect the important job that they do.”