According to the Carbon Trust, Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMPS) is planning to make energy-savings of £9.8 million by 2015.  Included in the measures are the use of voltage optimisation equipment in Cardiff Prison, and the conversion of used cooking oil into bio-diesel at an open prison.  However the use of LED energy saving lighting doesn’t appear to be mentioned in the reports.

With 128 prisons across the UK, housing around 84,000 prisons and 75,000 staff, the service has an energy bill of £45 million a year.  Surely the implementation of LED lighting would help reduce this hefty chunk of tax-payers’ money.

Forward-thinking Farmingdale Prison in New Jersey is expecting to save around 70% of its lighting bill by switching to LEDs.   In Norway’s newly built Halden Prison, LEDs were installed to meet the authority’s brief of low energy, long lifespan and vandal-proofing.

As well as the obvious financial and environmental benefits, a move away from fluorescent lighting has other benefits.  Improved lighting has a positive effect on the prisoners’ state of mind and reduces aggression.  This, in turn, reduces the threat to prison service staff, often at risk from violent offenders.

A report in 2002 by the Guardian newspaper stated staff and prisoners were suffering harm from fluorescent lighting.  According to the report, orange cellophane filters given out by the authorities, were used by both prisoners and prison service staff in an attempt to stop headaches and eyestrain.

The Guardian report states, “Victims of crime and the general public may think prisons are not supposed to be hotels, but prisons are not just about keeping offenders secure. They are also about education and rehabilitation. Bad lighting is conducive to neither because it has a profound effect on the biological functioning of the body.
Convicted criminals are only part of the prison population. In a remand prison such as the one in which I recently worked, the majority of the inmates are  innocent until proven guilty in court; and prison is a community where half the total inhabitants are ordinary working people, officers, nurses, teachers, office staff and librarians.”

Let’s hope HMPS sees the light and does away with its traditional fluorescent lighting in favour of LEDs.  As well as reducing the burden on the tax payer and the environment, there’s no doubt a great many people will benefit from improved lighting too.

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