06/12/2015 13:00 GMT | Updated 05/12/2016 05:12 GMT

Five Shocking Facts About the Cost of Private Female Prisons

Revelations about the financial cost of keeping women in private prisons

Private prisons operate within different countries. Within the United States, private corporations are known to profit from having prisons stocked according to their quotas. According to this model, taxpayers pay for empty beds when prisons have below their quota. All countries have different systems; however it is conceivable that this quota system could be operating not just within the United States. How can this claim be proved for private prisons for women in England? This article will highlight revelations about the financial cost of keeping women in private prisons.

Within England, there are currently two private female prisons. These are HMP Peterborough and HMP Bronzefield. On 25 November, the current Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove announced the closure of HMP Holloway. Within this statement, Michael Gove described HMP Holloway as inadequate and antiquated. Instead, women offenders from London will go to HMP Holloway and HMP Downview. HMP Downview is currently not open and it is not known whether this will remain within the public sector. HMP Bronzefield is run by Sodexo Justice Services. The most recent inspection report by the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons was in April 2013. This report explains that while the standard of accommodation was good, too many women shared cells. The report explains that issues such as making arrangements for women with disabilities needs attention and there are weaknesses with the provision of healthcare. The issue of healthcare has been addressed by a recent National Partnership Agreement between the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and NHS England. This means there will be an expansion of the range of healthcare services directly commissioned for prisons in England and Wales. Once HMP Holloway closes HMP Bronzefield will be what has been called a strategic hub for women in London (Robinson, 2013).

Private prisons for women:

HMP Bronzefield and HMP Peterborough were purpose built private prisons and have run according to PFI contracts since 2005. In general PFI contracts have been criticised for not ensuring value for money and in prisons there have been problems such as a high turnover of staff, low pay and in-experienced staff (Prison Reform Trust, 2005). Research has highlighted how public sector male prisons have confident, reliable staff with safe and secure regimes. Within a comparative study of public and private sector prisons examples of creative innovative partnerships with other agencies, flexible regimes and there were approachable staff in private prisons (Leibling et al, 2014).

Within other jurisdictions the state is obligated to keep prisons filled to capacity otherwise it has to pay the private company for unused beds. It is difficult to find out whether the contracts with HMP Peterborough and HMP Bronzefield require 90 to 100 per cent prison occupancy. If this is the case in England, how much is HMP Bronzefield? The contract details are not known, but imagine the taxpayer paying for empty beds and the state having contracts where there is no financial incentive to reduce imprisonment. There is no evidence that proves what is happening. Despite this, it is interesting to note that the financial cost of keeping women at HMP Bronzefield was published on 29 October, 2015. This is less than a month before the announcement of the closure of HMP Holloway.

Five shocking facts about the cost of private prisons for women:

If you aren't already aware about the social, welfare and health impacts of imprisoning women, then maybe the figures from a recent report will convince you that changes are needed. On 29 October 2015, the Ministry of Justice published the latest costs per place and costs per prisoner for 2014-15 in the NOMS Annual Report and Accounts (management information addendum). Here are five of the most shocking facts about prison privatization and the financial cost of keeping women in prison from the report.

1. HMP Bronzefield is the only private prison that has sole occupancy of women. The cost per prisoner is £64,445 per year. This is the most expensive private prison. HMP Peterborough also has a male wing and the cost per prisoner for one year is £38,589.

2. According to this report, the reason the cost per prisoner is higher can be due to the commissioning of healthcare. Not only this, but HMP Bronzefield has a mother and baby unit. Despite this justification of extra money for HMP Bronzefield, the latest prison inspection and previous reports have been critical about healthcare within this prison.

3. If there is an occupancy guarantee clause within the private prison contract for HMP Bronzefield then this could explain why this prison will be used for women who live in London. Despite the Corston Report and subsequent strategies claiming that women will be geographically closer. HMP Bronzfield is situated 35 miles away from people living in the East End of London.

4. HMP Bronzefield has a contract that started in 2002. If this contract has an occupancy requirement then the cost per day for an empty bed would be approximately £150 per day. If this is correct, then the money would be better spent within local communities to support women with their health issues.

5. HMP Peterborough charges £38, 569 per prisoner per year. This is a staggering £25,876 less than HMP Bronzefield per prisoner per year.

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