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Prisons now over 99 per cent full – official ( U.K. )

Prisons in England and Wales are virtually full, official figures show.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, says that the UK's jails have become

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: ‘Cramming ever greater numbers of people into overcrowded prisons with fewer staff and less time out of cell is no way to transform rehabilitation.’ Photo: TELEGRAPH


Christopher Hope

By , Senior Political Correspondent

6:29PM BST 18 Oct 2013

A combination of tougher sentencing policies and cuts to prison place has left   jails in England and Wales at more than 99 per cent full.

The prison population hit 84,987 in the last week, up 155 on the previous   week, leaving the prison estate full to bursting.

There is little headroom for any further growth. Total capacity now stands at   85,828, down 230 places over the same period, after a nymber if prison   closures.

The number of prisoners has fallen by more than 1,000 in the last 12 months,   but a raft of jail closures has seen capacity drop by 5,246 places.

In total, 13 prisons have closed since May 2010, with three partially shut,   and four more to close by next spring.

The Government is planning to build a so-called super prison in Wrexham, which   will hold more than 2,000 inmates.

Campaigners said that questions had to be asked about whether the pace of the   cuts in the Ministry of Justice should be slowed.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Questions need to be   raised about the pace and scale of change in the justice system. There are   enough prison places to hold serious and violent offenders for whom prison   is the right place of last resort.

“Solutions lie not in closing small local prisons and building super-sized   jails but in effective community sentences, treatment for addicts and mental   health care.

“Cramming ever greater numbers of people into overcrowded prisons with fewer   staff and less time out of cell is no way to transform rehabilitation.”

Labour seized on the figures. Shadow Justice secretary Sadiq Khan MP said:    “Making sure there are enough spaces in our prisons for all those that need   locking up is one of the basics of the job for any Justice Secretary.

“The public need confidence that when a judge sends someone down for a serious or violent crime, they can be locked away securely. I have been warning about the risk of prison places running out for three years now. It gives me no pleasure saying ‘I told you so’.”

Jeremy Wright, the prisons’ minister, tried to calm fears that prisons would   soon run out of space to house convicted offenders.

Mr Wright said: “We have more than enough space within our prisons to   accommodate all offenders without relying on police or court cells.

“I have been clear that we will never be in a position where we can’t take   those sent to prison by the courts. What we won’t do is spend hard-earned   taxpayers’ money on keeping open expensive capacity we do not need.”

Mr Wright brushed off the criticism from Mr Khan, saying: “This is rubbish and   breathtaking hypocrisy from a party that under its watch let thousands of   criminals out early because they hadn’t provided enough prison places.”

Separately, probation officers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike   action over Government plans to privatise the service.

The National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) said 84.4 per cent of   members supported strike action on a 46 per cent turnout. A date for the   strike is yet to be fixed.

If a strike goes ahead, it will be only the third time in its 101-year history   that Napo will have taken such action.

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