Cost of exercise equipment in Prisons revealed

February 02, 2011 1:30 PM

Gathering information about Her Majesty's Prison Service is notoriously difficult. HM Prison Service is covered by the Ministry of Justice, yet they do not centrally hold information on individual prisons. But this week that the MoJ released some information in response to a Parliamentary Question asked by Rob Halfon MP. The answer reveals the cost to the National Offender Management Service, who manage most of the Prisons in England and Wales, of purchasing gymnasium and sports equipment for the last 3 financial years and the current year to date. The response reveals how three main suppliers are used to purchase equipment:

  • Physique plc who sell mainly gym machines and other light sport equipment was used to purchase £1,060,737 worth of sports gear in 2007-08, rising sharply to £1,715,791 in 2009-09, £99,520 in 2009-10 and £572,368 to date in the current financial year.



  • Service Sport who sell roughly the same products as Physique sold to the Prison Service £516,425 worth of equipment in 2007-08, more than doubling to £1,290,650 in 2008-09, rising again to £1,397,739 in 2009-10 and falling slightly to £993,464 in the current year.



  • Newitts, whose product portfolio consists of mainly light sports equipment such as rackets, bats, free weights and consumables, were the suppliers of £414,753 worth of equipment in 2007-08, £612,102 in 2008-09, £514,205 in 2009-10 and £347,915 so far during this financial year.


Obviously prisoners have to live in accommodation that meets a minimum standard and may need to exercise whilst serving time. But this is a lot of money – last year totalling over £3million – to spend on kitting out prisons with sports equipment. I’m sure there’ll be many people out there will have cancelled their gym memberships as budgets have been squeezed, but inmates are still able to utilise expensive equipment. Our Campaign Director Emma Boon was quoted in the Daily Mail and the Daily Express on the story.

What was particularly notable was the sharp rise in expenditure between the 2007-08 and 2008-09 financial years. The cost increased from £1,991,915 to £3,698,543 a staggering rise considering Britain was in the midst of its deepest recession since the 1930’s.

In their defence, the MoJ highlight that they do, where possible, purchase remanufactured or refurbished equipment, which is clearly much cheaper than purchasing brand new apparatus. But the year on year costs here are revealing. A simple set of free weights and monkey bars would prove very inexpensive and should rarely require replacing. Of course initiatives that genuinely have a positive impact on reducing reoffending should be considered, but access to treadmills, cross-trainers, rowing machines is something that, outside prison, only the wealthy can afford.Gathering information about Her Majesty's Prison Service is notoriously difficult. HM Prison Service is covered by the Ministry of Justice, yet they do not centrally hold information on individual prisons. But this week that the MoJ released some information in response to a Parliamentary Question asked by Rob Halfon MP. The answer reveals the cost to the National Offender Management Service, who manage most of the Prisons in England and Wales, of purchasing gymnasium and sports equipment for the last 3 financial years and the current year to date. The response reveals how three main suppliers are used to purchase equipment:

  • Physique plc who sell mainly gym machines and other light sport equipment was used to purchase £1,060,737 worth of sports gear in 2007-08, rising sharply to £1,715,791 in 2009-09, £99,520 in 2009-10 and £572,368 to date in the current financial year.



  • Service Sport who sell roughly the same products as Physique sold to the Prison Service £516,425 worth of equipment in 2007-08, more than doubling to £1,290,650 in 2008-09, rising again to £1,397,739 in 2009-10 and falling slightly to £993,464 in the current year.



  • Newitts, whose product portfolio consists of mainly light sports equipment such as rackets, bats, free weights and consumables, were the suppliers of £414,753 worth of equipment in 2007-08, £612,102 in 2008-09, £514,205 in 2009-10 and £347,915 so far during this financial year.


Obviously prisoners have to live in accommodation that meets a minimum standard and may need to exercise whilst serving time. But this is a lot of money – last year totalling over £3million – to spend on kitting out prisons with sports equipment. I’m sure there’ll be many people out there will have cancelled their gym memberships as budgets have been squeezed, but inmates are still able to utilise expensive equipment. Our Campaign Director Emma Boon was quoted in the Daily Mail and the Daily Express on the story.

What was particularly notable was the sharp rise in expenditure between the 2007-08 and 2008-09 financial years. The cost increased from £1,991,915 to £3,698,543 a staggering rise considering Britain was in the midst of its deepest recession since the 1930’s.

In their defence, the MoJ highlight that they do, where possible, purchase remanufactured or refurbished equipment, which is clearly much cheaper than purchasing brand new apparatus. But the year on year costs here are revealing. A simple set of free weights and monkey bars would prove very inexpensive and should rarely require replacing. Of course initiatives that genuinely have a positive impact on reducing reoffending should be considered, but access to treadmills, cross-trainers, rowing machines is something that, outside prison, only the wealthy can afford.

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