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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

August 13, 2005: Prisons Breach Safe Limits, Says PRT

The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) has stated that overcrowding is forcing the Prison Service to risk good order, security and proper running of prisons. This summer, over half of the prisons in England and Wales are officially overcrowded according to Home Office figures. There are now over 10,000 more people in the prison system that it is designed for. 74 out of 142 jails are over the Prison Service’s Certified Normal Accommodation: “the good, decent standard of accommodation that the Service aspires to provide all prisoners”. Worse still, 15 prisons were full beyond even their safe overcrowding limit in July.

PRT director Juliet Lyon commented:

“This level of overcrowding poses a real and serious danger to prison and public safety.”

The PRT notes that conditions are deteriorating. Prisons are short-staffed, and opportunities for constructive activity are very limited. People are being moved from one overcrowded prison to another. Over 17,000 prisoners are now held two to a cell built for one. They do not have to have separately ventilated lavatories – meaning more than one person must eat, sleep and defecate in the same small room.

Since the beginning of June, there have been 26 apparent self-inflicted deaths in custody. Of these, 24 have occurred in overcrowded prisons. Juliet Lyon stated:

“The terrible correlation between overcrowding and deaths in custody demands urgent investigation.”

The total number of prisoners that a jail can fit in, allowing for a safe level of overcrowding, is known as its ‘operational capacity’. In July 2004, the Home Office minister Paul Goggins was asked in parliament about overcrowded prisons. He commented then: “All those prisons are within their operating capacity, which is the total number of prisoners that an establishment can hold, taking into account control, security and the proper operation of the planned regime.”

Just one year on, this is no longer true. Fifteen prisons across England and Wales have been forced beyond their overcrowding limit: they are Altcourse, Brixton, Bullingdon, Camp Hill, Chelmsford, Coldingley, Forest Bank, Gartree, Highdown, Lancaster Farms, Lowdham Grange, Wandsworth, Woodhill, Wormwood Scrubs, and Wymott.

Juliet Lyon said:

“The government have grown complacent about overcrowding and now is breaching its own final buffer. The summer holiday season usually gives prisons a respite while the courts take their break, instead the population is growing month on month. Even in the quietest months of the year, pressure is still building up within prisons.”

“Massive prison growth will not end of its own accord. It will take a concerted effort to reserve prison for serious and violent offenders and to invest in drug treatment, mental healthcare and safe, effective alternatives to custody. Right now, the prison population is mushrooming out of control, and the government is still trying hopelessly to build its way out of a crisis.”