Annual Cost of Keeping a Prisoner in the UK

Prison Info

Every year, the UK prison system operates at an enormous cost. It is estimated that the annual cost of maintaining an inmate in a UK prison is vast. Here we explore what these costs are made up of, and why such a high price is put on the upkeep of prisoners.

The Cost

At the outset, it’s important to mention that the exact cost of keeping a prisoner in the UK fluctuates annually.
For the year 2019-2020, the average annual cost of a prisoner in England and Wales was £39,500 according to the Ministry of Justice. This involves costs associated with a wide variety of factors. It’s important to look into the different components of these costs.

  1. Secure Accommodation – Securing the prisoners safely is the primary part of these costs. It includes providing housing, meals, security and other basic needs. It takes a substantial chunk of the total annual cost.
  2. Healthcare Costs – It is the state’s duty to look after the health of the prisoners. This includes regular medical check-ups and mental health support, encompassing a significant part of the total cost.
  3. Educational and Rehabilitative Services – Prisons are also about rehabilitation and correction – that requires educational programmes and other support services. Investment in these services is an integral part of the costs.
  4. Legal Costs – Legal expenditures on prisoners can include legal advice, representation, etc., which also adds to the overall expenses.

Why is the Cost so High?

The UK’s prison costs are high because high-quality safety standards, healthcare, food, and rehabilitative services need substantial investment. A significant portion of the fees also covers administrative and personnel costs, security implementations, and legal expenses.

How Does it Compare to Other Countries?

The UK, in comparison to other countries, is seen to have higher prison costs. Denmark, whose prison system is often referred to as one of the best globally, has a lower average annual cost than the UK. Meanwhile, the US – which has the highest incarceration rate in the world – has a per-prisoner cost that varies by state but on average, less than the UK cost.


There’s no denying the costs of keeping a prisoner in the UK are high. While the cost for inmates is considerable, it’s crucial to look beyond the numbers and understand that this cost incorporates the dizzying intricacies needed to house a prisoner and facilitate their correction and growth within a secure environment. It’s clear that maintaining these services and standards is a colossal financial undertaking.

This is why understanding the ins-and-outs of the cost is essential for those looking to research deeper into the UK’s prison system.

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Is it cheaper to call a landline from prison?

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