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UK Prison Rent

CHARGING THE INNOCENT

What do you get in Britain when it turns out that--after you've spent numerous years in prison--you have been wrongfully charged with a crime? In addition to an apology, you may also receive a bill for your room and board.

David Blunkett, UK Labour Home Secretary, has been fighting hard for what the British media calls "Bed and Breakfast bill". He wants to charge prisoners that have been found innocent and released with the cost for board and lodging while behind bars. The cost per year, per Blunkett's calculations, should be £3,000 (about $5,500)--a nice round sum and approximately what an inmate would have spent hadn't he been in prison. The amount is then deducted from any settlement that the individual might be awarded from the state for being unjustly imprisoned in the first place.

As you might imagine, Blunkett's unusual bill caused uproar in Britain. Various victims of justice filed a lawsuit against what they call a moral outrage... one of them is Mike O'Brien who spent ten years in prison wrongfully convicted of murder. He took the Home Office to court and won, but Blunkett appealed O'Brien's case.

O'Brien to the Herald Sun: "Morally, the position of the government is just outrageous. It shows total contempt for the victims of miscarriages of justice. It makes me livid. [...] A government really can't get much worse than this."

In our view, Blunkett's outlandish bill is a sign of a larger trend as hopelessly indebted governments around the world look for any and all possible sources of revenue to keep the lights on, even in prisons.