Page last updated at 20:03 GMT, Thursday, 2 April 2009 21:03 UK

'Make prisoners pay' for lodgings

Vera Baird
Ms Baird said she would look at the proposal over the Easter break

A government minister has said she will look at an MP's call for wealthy criminals to pay towards the "huge cost" of keeping them in prison.

Conservative MP Mark Pritchard suggested the idea in the Commons.

He said that at a time of hardship for pensioners and others, criminals should be made to pay towards the costs of "feeding, housing and guarding" them.

Solicitor General Vera Baird called it a "very interesting point" and said she would "dwell on it over Easter".

Recent figures put the England and Wales prison population at 82,586.

In the Commons, Mr Pritchard, MP for the Wrekin, Shropshire, said: "For every crime committed, all of society suffers, in particular the huge cost of feeding, housing and guarding criminals.

"Would you consider reviewing existing legislation to ensure wealthier criminals actually pay for their time in prison?"

Amid some laughter, Ms Baird replied: "It's a very interesting point and I shall spend a lot of time dwelling on it over Easter."

But she added that the issue was not her departmental responsibility.

Mr Pritchard, who argues the average cost of keeping a prisoner in jail is £40,000 a year, said later: "This is not a 'pay-if-you-go' scheme but a 'pay-if-you-stay' scheme.

"Perhaps if more criminals, who could pay, did pay, then the added deterrent might reduce re-offending rates and reduce the burden on hard-pressed taxpayers."

He added that there needed to be a review of how society paid for justice to "improve the link between the criminal and the overall costs of their crimes".

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