Foreigners in UK jails cost 398m
By staff and agencies
Last Updated: 2:05am BST 03/05/2007
Keeping foreign nationals in overcrowded British jails is costing the taxpayer more than 398 million a year, it has been claimed.
Figures obtained by the Tories show that 15 per cent of the nearly 80,000-strong prison population are from outside the UK.
The largest contingents among the 12,122 come from Jamaica and Nigeria, with 1,490 and 1,070 respectively.
Another 879 inmates are classified as having “unrecorded” nationality – raising questions over why officials have been unable to establish their origin, and what will happen to them when released.
Shadow immigration minister Damian Green, who brought the details to light through Parliamentary questions, said the situation was “truly shocking”.
“It shows what happens when the Government loses control of our borders. We seem to attract criminals from all over the world, and the British taxpayer ends up paying for them,” he insisted.
“Many of these criminals come from friendly democratic countries where deportation could be arranged.
“If we could remove the Jamaican prisoners alone we would save 49 million a year.
“And why are there nearly 1,000 people who have gone through the criminal justice system and been jailed without the Government even finding out where they come from?”
Mr Green used the “snapshot” figures from the end of February to calculate costs based on Government estimates of 33,000 annual expenditure for each prison place.
Some 164 nationalities are represented in British jails, according to the data.
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Mr Green rightly points out the large number of foreign nationals in UK prisons, but fails to mention that the dearest wish of many is nothing more than to go home.
“Very many are drug mules, often coerced or tricked and seen as disposable by drugs barons, but given some of the toughest sentences of any in the prison system. The answer is smarter sentencing.”