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18 Feb 2015

Revealed: £56m wasted on getting rid of prison staff

More than £56 million of public money was spent in a single year on severance payments as staffing in the prison system was cut to dangerous levels, a document seen by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveals.

The Prison Service made payments totalling £56,487,250 in 2013 – almost 10 times the previous year’s bill – as prison officers were made redundant across England and Wales.

The cuts came as the prison population rose – from 83,909 at the end of December 2012 to 84,392 at the end of December 2013.

The Ministry of Justice has since spent millions trying to recruit officers to fill vacancies after a series of damning prison inspection reports.

Details of the severance payments are included in a response by Prisons Minister Andrew Selous to a Parliamentary Question asked by Shadow Justice Minister Jenny Chapman.

Mr Selous’s response includes the following table:

Table: Annual amount spent on severance payments1 to prison officers
April 2010 – December 2013

Year Amount (£s)
20102 3,002,420
2011 4,181,680
2012 5,737,900
2013 56,487,250

1 Severance payments include payments as a result of voluntary early departure schemes and also payments as compensation for medically related dismissals. Payments are allocated to the year paid, which in some cases may be after the leaving date of the officer.

2 Spending shown for 2010 only covers 1 April 2010 – 31 December 2010 as information of severance payments prior to 1 April 2010 is held by a private contractor and is not currently available.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The mismanagement of the prison system over the last couple of years is breathtaking and has resulted in a massive waste of public money. Whilst prisons sank into an abyss of violence, gangs, suicides and criminality, ministers clearly panicked and are now desperate to recruit new staff to replace the experienced people they got rid of.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. The Parliamentary Question can be viewed online here.
  3. The scale of prison staffing cuts across England and Wales is shown in the Howard League’s research briefing paper, Breaking point: Understaffing and overcrowding in prisons, and an update on even further cuts to staff.


Rob Preece
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