Sadiq Khan MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, commenting on the continuing winter spike in prison numbers, said:
”Today's figures show the prison population surging past 99 per cent of capacity for the first time this year - the level when police cells are put on standby
“Because of the Tories utter complacency, the prisons system is totally unprepared for the traditional winter 'spike' in the numbers locked up.
“At this rate, because of their sheer incompetence, Ministers will be desperately scratching around for spaces by the spring, and may have to resort to the expense of locking up dangerous and violent criminals in police station and court cells because of the failure of their policies.”
The population as of 31 January 2014 stands at 84,977, up 344 in a week, and 978 more than this time last year. Capacity stands at 85,657, down 4,177 on this time last year. There are just 680 places left in the prisons system. Population is now at 99.21% of total capacity, beyond the Government’s cut off of 99% when Operation Safeguard should be implemented. This is when police station and court cells are put on standby for use
In total, 17 prisons have been closed (and three partly closed) by the Government since May 2010. Capital spending on the prison building programme has shrunk from £433million in 2009/10 to £134million in 2012/13 – a cut of 69%.
The previous five years have seen, on average, a rise in prison numbers after Christmas of 1.99%, with the New Year spike reaching its peak by the end of March . If the average rise is repeated this winter, by the end of March there could be a shortfall of 1,056 prison spaces. If the rise is equivalent to the biggest post-Christmas spike of recent years (2.97% in 2009-10), the shortfall in places could be 2,525 places by the end of March.