Sadiq Khan MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, commenting on the ongoing crisis in the prisons system, said:
“This is an illustration of just how much David Cameron’s prisons policy is failing, and what they’ll do to hide their embarrassment. The severe shortage of space in our prisons system continues to be a massive problem. This is the sixth week in a row the population has risen putting massive pressure on space, yet Ministers continue their silence on where prisoners will be locked up if this upward trend continues.
“The Government have refused to officially implement Operation Safeguard, despite the system operating beyond the 99% figure which should trigger it. However, figures this week revealed the Government has resorted to keeping prisoners in police cells because of a shortage of space, which is Operation Safeguard by any other name.”
Notes to Editors:
The population as of 14 February stands at 85,335 – up 100 on last week https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prison-population-figures-2014
Total capacity stands at 85,806 – meaning the system is operating at 99.5% of capacity, beyond the 99% figure for when Operation Safeguard should ordinarily be triggered.
There are just 471 places left. Just this week it was revealed that prisoners have been kept in police cells, despite claims from Ministers that this was not happening http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2558192/Rising-number-jail-inmates-police-cells-Fewer-500-places-left-prisons-nationwide-number-offenders-rockets.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490
Since Chris Grayling took over as Justice Secretary there have been 1188 occasions where prisoners were locked up in police cells. Ministers have continually denied that police cells would be needed. On 18 October 2013, Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright MP said "We have more than enough space within our prisons to accommodate all offenders without relying on police or court cells” http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/437710/Prisons-close-to-breaking-point-with-fewer-than-850-places-left-after-jail-closures and on 17 December Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said “I can absolutely confirm that we are nowhere near the situation that they were in when they were in office, when they had to use police cells. We have plenty of capacity in our prison system and plenty of reserves that we can draw upon” http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2013-12-17b.614.5&s=grayling+prison+population#g619.2
Operation Safeguard, when the prisons system is placed on an emergency footing, is usually implemented when population exceeds 99% of capacity, yet officially the Government has not implemented it.
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%. Their planned new prison in Wrexham will not come on stream until 2017.
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.