09:09, August 23 62 0 theguardian.com

2018-08-23 09:09:05
Prison population set to rise despite overcrowding crisis

Prisoner numbers are expected to increase by thousands over the next five years, according to estimates released amid warnings of a crisis in jails in England and Wales.

The prison population was 83,165 as of Friday and is projected to increase steadily by 3,200 places to 86,400 places by March 2023, figures released by the Ministry of Justice show.

In the long-term, projected increases will be driven by an expected rise in offenders sentenced to terms of four years or more, the research paper said.

The numbers of over-60 and 70 year olds in prison are projected to increase, driven by increases in convictions for sexual offending, it added.

The figures come in a week when Birmingham prison was removed from private operator G4S and returned to state control following the shock findings of an unannounced inspection.

Prison reform campaigners warned that the dire condition of HMP Birmingham was not unique and reflected a broader crisis driven by overcrowding.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “In a week dominated by the crisis in prisons now, these projections for the future are still the most important document in the minister’s in-tray.”

Dawson said there was no “realistic” option for the government to build enough prisons space to accommodate the projected rise in places and it needed to develop a policy to lower demand for prison.

“That can start with delivering on the promise of fewer short sentences, but it must also include a review of long sentences for more serious crime,” Dawson said. “That means revisiting maximum and minimum penalties, a parole system focused on safe release at the first opportunity, and a means to review the longest sentences when their purpose has been served.

“We face the unedifying spectacle of a prison system where the length of sentence destroys rather than rebuilds lives, dominated by a growing population of sick and dying old men.”

The over-50-year-old population is projected to grow from 13,616 in June 2018, to 14,100 in June 2022, while the over-60 population is projected to grow from 5,009 to 5,600 in the same period. The over-70 population is projected to grow from 1,681 to 2,000.

On Monday, Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons, announced he had invoked the urgent notification process in respect of Birmingham prison, meaning the justice secretary, David Gauke, is required to draw up an emergency turnaround plan. It is the third use of the power since it was created.

Clarke and his inspectors discovered rife drug use, high levels of violence and filthy conditions with blood and rat droppings on the floors and walls.

Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary, said: “Our prisons are already facing an emergency, with some of the worst conditions that inspectors have ever seen.

“Given the Conservatives’ lack of a serious plan to fix this mess, these figures suggest that a crisis driven by dangerous levels of overcrowding, understaffing and cuts is set to deepen even further.”

Topics

Week News

Month News

Year News