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August 19, 2011

"Prison population hits record high in England and Wales"

The title of this post is the headline of this new report from The Guardian about the latest punishment realities across the pond.  Here are some of the the details:

The prison population in England and Wales has hit a record high of 86,654 following the courts' decision to remand hundreds charged with rioting and looting in custody. The Ministry of Justice said the prison population had risen by 723 over the past week. Officials are making contingency plans to accelerate the opening of new prison buildings and bring mothballed accommodation back into use.

There are currently only 1,439 spare useable places left in the jail system, but prison chiefs say they remain confident they have enough to cope with those being imprisoned by the courts in relation to the recent riots. "We are developing contingencies to increase useable capacity should further pressure be placed on the prison estate," a Prison Service spokesperson said....

Geoff Dobson, the deputy director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the rapid increase in prison numbers meant that some parts of the system were "becoming human warehouses, doing little more than banging people up in overcrowded conditions, with regimes that are hard pressed to offer any employment or education.  The likelihood is that for some first time offenders that will provide a fast-track to a criminal career."

His concerns were shared by Paul McDowell, the chief executive of Nacro, the crime reduction charity, and former governor of Brixton prison, who also warned that rehabilitation work to tackle reoffending would simply go by the board as jails tried to cope with the rapid rise in prisoner numbers.

Labour's prison spokesperson, Helen Goodman, said she was becoming increasingly concerned about the remaining capacity.  "The violence that was seen on the streets of Britain last week must be punished, but the Tory-led government also have a responsibility to ensure that the sentences handed down are being served safely," she said.

August 19, 2011 at 12:08 PM | Permalink

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