Austerity and the prison

September 1, 2015

An excerpt from an OUPblog article published on Friday 28th August 2015, written by Julian V. Roberts, Professor of Criminology in the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, and author of Criminal Justice: A Very Short Introduction.

Criminal Justice: A Very Short Introduction


"Greece is not alone in suffering from budget cuts arising from the era of austerity. In the UK, local councils, libraries, museums – all public services have been cut. Criminal Justice has not escaped this cost-cutting. The consequence has been fewer police officers on the streets, less money for legal aid lawyers, and closures of Magistrates courts. Prisons too have been hit; the government has reduced the amount it spends running correctional facilities. This has meant fewer programs and services for prisoners, more austere prisons as well as more work for fewer prison officers.

It’s a strange way to reduce the costs of the prisons. Imagine proposing to cut the costs of Emergency wards by reducing the average amount spent treating each patient. Like prisons, these facilities are overcrowded and overstretched. We also know that too many people present at one of these facilities when they could be treated far more cheaply, more quickly and equally effectively if we had more out-of-hours GP clinics. So health authorities have been creating more community–based services to reduce the caseload going to Emergency facilities.  It’s the same for prisons: the only effective way of reducing costs is to cut the number of people being sent there, by punishing them in other ways."

Discover more: Read the rest of the article on the OUPblog. 


Are you interested in using Very Short Introductions? Recommend this resource to your librarian, or find out how to subscribe.