Tuesday 23 September 2014

Go directly to jail ...

. . . do not collect €334 million.  Or rather do collect that amount of money and spend it on the prison service.  That's rather a little money for the government of our poor neo-third-world country compared with the expenditure on Education €8.5 billion, Health €13.5 billion and Social Protection €20 billion.  The total government spend on Ireland Inc. in the last 12 month has been, in round figures, €50 billion.  That's about €10,000 for every man woman and child in the state.  It is in the nature of the socialist paradise in which we live that the distribution of government largess is manifestly uneven. You're a winner if you earn little or nothing and have several children in school, for example. The amount which people contribute in taxation is also unequal but more or less in proportion to the ability to pay.

I did some calculations recently about the cost of maintaining children in school and it was a) suprisingly large and b) seemingly rather bloated/inefficient.  What would it take to ensure that people who were served custodial sentences actually spent the majority of that length of time actually in jail rather than being given a day trip to the capital?  That's rather a difficult conundrum because, by all accounts, the current prison system is heaving with incarcerated bodies. The occupancy rate is usually over 90% which would cause the share-holders of any commercial hotel group to break out champagne and start looking for building contractors. But we can look at how much it costs to keep one person in is the prison for a year.  Always bearing in mind that, with the large number of short sentences, the occupant of a serviced bunk is unlikely to be the same on consecutive Christmases.
lt 3mo
But you need less than 4,000 bunks to work all these people through their sentences. On the last 5 consecutive Thursdays, there have been 3802, 3819, 3868, 3897 and 3923 prisoners on the register so I'm taking that as the number of prisoners that need "the provision of safe, secure, humane and rehabilitative custody" each year  . . . at a cost of €334 million!  Or the bones of €90,000 each.

That's just the running costs, it would cost a mort o' money to double the number of prison spaces because you'd need to build new prisons.  But here's another thought.  There were 470,000 people of pensionable age in Ireland in 2006 which is larger now because we're all living forever and is likely to increase 3x over the next 30 years.  The basic rate of pension is €230 per week, there are 52 weeks in the year, so the government is laying out 470K x 230 x 52 = €5.6 billion on pension provision.  A 10% cut in the old age pension would go a long way to sorting out the problem of insufficient prison space. If that's what we-the-people want to do.  Me, I'd rather keep the pensioners in the style to which they have become accustomed because they are remarkably generous with the chocolate biscuits whenever I call round.

But seriously, we could, with advantage, throw everything into the air and rethink how we want to divvy up the €50 billion rather than letting the Finance Minister piffle about at the edges of block grants that are written in stone by the special interest groups that benefit.

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