Papers, Prison and Probation Reform

Building new modern prisons in Ukraine: a myth or reality?

In February 2016, the Ministry of Justice declared that the Government would build new pre-trial prisons instead of old establishments. The Ministry of Justice presented idea as a direction of new Ukrainian prison policy. It was proclaimed that the Government would build new pre-trial prisons using the mechanism of public-private partnership.

In other words, the Ministry of Justice decided to choose the alternative of building new institutions instead of modernizing old prisons.

Unfortunately, as we stated earlier, an official MoJ presentation does not contain concrete mechanism of public-private partnership. A database of potential investors had to be presented in March – April 2016. Unfortunately, on 19.07.2016 the Ministry of Justice reported “it has only contacted to representatives of potential investors”.

Let’s conduct a brief analysis of such direction of the newly proclaimed prison policy. This analysis will be really brief taking into account only one criteria – the price of new prison projects.

According to some fragmental information presented by the Ministry of Justice, the price of a new pre-trial prison in the village Kotsyubynske near Kyiv, which must be built by modern European standards, will constitute almost $14 million. A project of this new pre-trial prison is designed for 2300 prisoners.

The project of a new pre-trial prison in Chernivtsi was evaluated in $6 million.

So, let us have $14 million as a starting point in our brief analysis of this direction of the prison reform initiated by the Ministry of Justice.

For the needs of this analysis let us have an overview of prices of prison projects in some countries.



An average new prison in the USA costs from $98 to $162 million (depending on the security level, number of seats and other factors). We should make a special note that such a price refers to prisons designed for keeping from 900 to 1200 prisoners.

Here you can see prices for new planned facilities or modernization of old wings of these prisons in California:

California Medical Facility (Chino): 45-bed acute- and intermediate-care mental health center for female inmates, $33.7 million (or $750,000 per bed);

California Health Care Facility (Stockton): 1.2 million-square-foot medical center with 1,722 beds for patient-inmates, $906 million (or $52,000 per bed);

California Men’s Colony (San Luis Obispo): 50-bed mental health crisis unit, $35.7 million (or $715,000 per bed);

– California Medical Facility (Vacaville): additional treatment and office space for mental health patients, $24.2 million (no beds);

DeWitt-Nelson YCF Conversion (Stockton): renovation of former youth lockup into 1,133-bed adult mental health treatment center, $188 million (or $16,500 per bed);

– Estrella (Paso Robles): conversion of former youth lockup to 1,000-bed adult center aimed at inmates with medical needs, $110 million (or $11,000 a bed);

California State Prison (Sacramento): treatment and office space for 192 inmates, $12.7 million (no beds);

– Lancaster State Prison (Lancaster): treatment and office space for mental health services for 150 inmates, $11.49 million (no beds);

– Central California Women’s Facility (Chowchilla): treatment and office space for inmates with mental health treatment needs, $17.7 million (no beds);

– Corcoran State Prison (Corcoran, Kings County): 14,932-square-foot building for mental health treatment space for existing inmates, $16.5 million (no beds);

– Salinas Valley State Prison (Soledad): treatment and office space for mental health treatment for existing inmates, $25.3 million (no beds);

– Northern California Re-entry Facility (Stockton): 500-bed re-entry center for inmates at the end of their sentence, $116.8 million (or $23,000 per bed.

The project of the Utah State Prison needed $578 million to maintain the facility, replace older buildings, and add program space.

A new Phoenix Prison is a million-square-foot complex located in Pennsylvania and designed to house 3,872 inmates. The state agreed to pay $320 million in 2013, and boosted that to $350 million.

The Alabama Senate approves $800 million plan to build four prisons in this state.

In North Dakota, new beds for growing prison population will cost $485 million by 2025.

A new prison in Northumberland County (Pennsylvania) designed for 300 adult inmates would cost $41 million.

In Letcher County (Kentucky), the Bureau of Prisons plans to use $444 million in federal money to build the prison on a 700-acre site in Roxana.

Administrative United States Thomson Penitentiary (formerly Thomson Correctional Center) is a maximum security prison located just north of Thomson (Illinois). In 2012, it was announced that the Obama administration and Federal Bureau of Prisons would buy the Thomson Correctional Center from the state of Illinois for $165 million. Building a new prison instead of buying Thomson would take years and cost about $400 million.

The price for renovation of the Mitchellville prison (Iowa) hit $122 million.



The Canadian federal government spent $700 million to add 2,700 cells to more than 30 existing penitentiaries.

The Canadian experience shows an example of building of a new prison for 1000 prisoners where the price can reach almost $500 million.



The massive new facility is set to be built in Sydney’s southwest. The price of the project is more than $400 million.

Another new medium security men’s prison is being built at Ravenhall, in Melbourne’s west, to accommodate 1300 prisoners. Construction commenced in February 2015 and is expected to be completed in late 2017. The $2529 million proposal includes design and construction costs, operating costs, maintenance and facilities management costs over 25 years.



In 2013, over 97.5 million Turkish Liras had been spent over the last 10 years on the restoration of prisons and that numerous small provincial prisons throughout the country had been closed as a result of their inadequate facilities.


The UK

A new super-prison for 2 thousand prisoners in Wrexham (North Wales) could cost £250 million for taxpayers. The prison is to be open in 2017. This prison is intended to replace several other prisons, which, it their turn, should be closed. British economists estimate that, despite the high cost of this prison project, a new prison will save more than £20 million per year and provide better rehabilitation services. Contractors of concrete directions of work have already known.


The UK is also to spend £25 million on building a prison in Jamaica so that foreign criminals in the UK can be sent home to serve sentences in the Caribbean. More than 600 Jamaican nationals are in UK jails but cannot be deported because of Jamaica’s poor prison conditions.


Republic of Ireland

In Ireland, the new prison for 275 beds in Cork will cost nearly €45 million.

Prices for building of new prisons and modernization of old institutions, which had been implemented in the beginning of the Millennium, are presented in the table below:

Midlands Prison
Limerick prison C and E wings
Portlaoise prison gatelock
Wheatfield prison laundry and workshops
St. Patrick’s Institution special school
Development of modern new prison with capacity for 400 prisoners
Replacement of ancient prison wing with new modern accommodation wing
Development of new, modern, prison Gatelock for high-security prison
Development of new prison laundry and paint workshop and extension of metal workshop
Development of self-contained accommodation and education facility for 14 and 15 year old offenders
Initial Budget Estimate
€52.5m (400 space facility)
Contract Value
Initial Estimate of Completion Date
November 1999 (400 space facility)
May 2000
February 2003
November 2003
November 2002
Actual Final Cost
€56.2m (515 space facility)
Actual Completion Date
April 2000 (515 space facility)
December 2004
February 2004
August 2004
April 2003



Construction of new pre-trial prisons is an acute need for the Ukrainian prison system. It does require urgent steps to implement this idea.

Nevertheless, according to the Law “On the State Budget”, in 2016 the Ukrainian prison system should receive 3,5 billion UAH that means approximately $141 million.

Let us recall that an average modern prison in the USA, Australia and Europe designed for more than 1200 beds could hit $150 million and more.

We can presume that a big pre-trial prison, which had been designed for more than 2000 inmates, could cost more than $300 million.

The conclusions are more than obvious.

If the Ministry of Justice builds a new pre-trial prison it should spend more than two year prison budgets only for one new institution.

Therefore, an obvious question should be answered whether Ukraine can allow such investment.

What about other alternatives?


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