Release the Information on Economic Benefits of Prisons NOW!
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5,000 new prison places
Following the opening of HMP Berwyn in Wrexham, Justice Secretary Liz Truss has named four other sites for huge new prisons: Port Talbot, Wigan, Rochester and East Yorkshire, providing a total of 5,000 places. These prisons will be built at a cost of hundreds of millions to the taxpayer but the Justice Secretary claims the new prisons will provide 'an economic lifeline' - bringing jobs and increasing spending in the local area.
These sites are all places where 'an economic lifeline' would be welcomed. But, there is no evidence that any new prison would provide such benefits. Despite repeated requests for the information on which their claims are based, the government has yet to present any evidence for its claims.
Where is the evidence?
Far from providing 'an economic lifeline' any new prison will have hidden consequences and harms for the people living near and and very little, in the end, to benefit them. Studies of the economic benefits to 'prison towns' in the USA have shown that prisons very rarely create wealth for communities surrounding a new prison. In fact, they often do the opposite, certainly in terms of reducing the value of property next to a prison. It is often national or international corporations who reap the profits of a prison (re)build.
There is no evidence that the recent opening of HMP Berwyn in Wrexham - costing £240m - has benefitted the local community.
It is well documented that prisoners have greater health problems than most people in society. More prisoners will place increased stress on local National Health Service resources. More prisons means more pressure on the ambulance service. There has been a 52% rise in emergency services callouts to prisons since 2011. Prisons with the highest populations tend, unsurprisingly, to have the highest numbers of callouts. The four new prisons are intended to provide a total of 5000 new places. It costs £300 for each ambulance call out, and the BBC estimated the bill for ambulance call outs to prisons in 2014-15 at £2.3 million, not including subsequent hospital treatment costs. This can actually lead to an impoverishment of health provision in the wider community.
The evidence must be made public
Following Richard Garside's letter to Justice Secretary Liz Truss, we the undersigned request that the government publish any and all evidence for its claims that new prisons will provide economic growth. In particular we request that the report Economic Impact of a New Prison (Peter Brett Associates, 2013) be published for public scrutiny immediately.
Government announces 5000 new prison places: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/justice-secretary-announces-plans-to-create-5000-modern-prison-places
Emergency services called out out to prisons 'every 20 minutes’:
Economic Benefits of Prisons in Rural Areas:
Prisons offer few economic benefits to small towns:
Prison privatisation can impede job growth in local areas:
Richard Garside's letter to Justice Secretary, Liz Truss:
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