Should prisoners be released early to cut public spending?

Millions are spent every year on keeping criminals behind bars, so should prisoners be freed prematurely to save money?

Release prisoners early and save money – this is the controversial game plan being proposed by Andrew Bridges, a chief inspector of probation.

It allegedly costs £80 million a year to keep 2,500 of the country’s most dangerous criminals locked up. If freed prematurely, however, Bridges claims that millions of pounds could be saved.

It is predicted that prisoners could commit a further 40 serious crimes a year once discharged. But Bridges is unsure whether spending £2 million a year to prevent these crimes from occurring, by detaining these inmates, is really value for money.

‘Is the public prepared to accept the cost of having more prisoners managed in the community to achieve what could be substantial financial saving?’

At a time where knife and gang crime appear to be on the rise, and a number of these serious crimes committed include murder, manslaughter and rape, for many the answer would be ‘no’.

But Bridges disagrees. ‘At a time when public expenditure is under especially close scrutiny it would be wise to consider the price paid for this rather drastic form of crime prevention.’

With the cost of keeping 30,000 people locked up for a fortnight totalling £48 million, he argues that it is unnecessary to detain 59 people, who may not need to be locked up, just for one who will re-offend in that 18-day period.

But critics have condemned Bridges’ radical stance. ‘In the end it does not come down to costs, it comes down to justice and public protection,’ said David Green, director of think-tank Civitas.

Matthew Elliott, of the Tax Payers’ Alliance agrees: ‘It is insulting to victims of crime and law abiding taxpayers who pay for the prison system to suggest that the public should accept an increase of crime if they want savings to be made.’

In support of this, figures reveal that in the last three years 1234 prisoners committed a total of 1624 new crimes during the time they would normally still be behind bars. These shocking statistics include three murders.

What do you think? Do you agree with Matthew Elliott? Or do you think prisoners should be released early to save on public spending? Let us know in the comments box below.

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