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Cost of jail-time in Northern Ireland is UK's highest at £55k a year

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The cost of keeping a prisoner in jail in Northern Ireland is £55,000 per year - £14,000 more than in Scotland and more than £11,000 dearer than England and Wales. (stock image)

The cost of keeping a prisoner in jail in Northern Ireland is £55,000 per year - £14,000 more than in Scotland and more than £11,000 dearer than England and Wales. (stock image)

The cost of keeping a prisoner in jail in Northern Ireland is £55,000 per year - £14,000 more than in Scotland and more than £11,000 dearer than England and Wales. (stock image)

The cost of keeping a prisoner in jail in Northern Ireland is £55,000 per year - £14,000 more than in Scotland and more than £11,000 dearer than England and Wales.

While costs are falling, it still works out at just over £150 per day per prisoner.

The average cost of a hotel room here in 2017 was just over £90.

Staying in a local prison is also considerably more expensive than a night in some of Belfast's leading hotels. According to travel website booking.com, a room for one at Malmaison is £98 per night, while at the Bullitt hotel a single room costs £95 per night.

Details of prisoner costs were revealed after South Down MLA Jim Wells submitted a question through the Stormont Assembly.

In its response the Department for Justice gave figures for prisoner costs for the year 2018/19 across the UK.

In Northern Ireland it was £54,893, in Scotland £40,175, and in England and Wales the cost per prisoner per year was £43,213.

According to statistics on the DoJ website, the average daily number of prisoners in jail in Northern Ireland in 2018/19 was 1,448, 57 of them female.

The cost of keeping prisoners in jail has reduced substantially over the past decade.

In 2010 the annual average cost for each prisoner here was £77,000 - more than double the England and Wales average of £34,000.

Mr Wells said that the figures released on Friday showed the Prison Service had been working hard to reduce costs, and he hoped the gradual downward trend toward the UK average would continue.

Director general of the Northern Ireland Prison Service Ronnie Armour said it faced challenges in narrowing the gap with the rest of the UK.

"Since 2012 we have delivered ongoing reforms including the introduction of new grades and new more efficient staff deployment arrangements," he explained.

"The implementation of the recommendations of the Prison Review Team, along with the impact of, for example new more efficient accommodation (Davis House) have helped NIPS to become more efficient.

"A projected cost per prisoner place of £44,000 means that the gap between NI and the rest of the UK is now at the lowest level ever. NIPS is determined to continue to narrow the gap but with our prisoner population rising - the number has increased by 153 since March 1, 2019 - this will be challenging," Mr Armour said.

Belfast Telegraph