Sadiq Khan MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, commenting on today’s rise in prison numbers, said:

“This Tory-led Government’s incompetence has seen the space left in our prisons shrink to the lowest level since they took office in May 2010. With the system running at 99.6% of capacity, they are scratching around for every possible spare place to lock up serious and dangerous criminals. Yet, with the annual New Year spike in prison numbers some way off yet, David Cameron remains utterly silent on what will happen if the population keeps rising. 

“Their own rules state that when the population gets beyond 99% of capacity, the emergency Operation Safeguard should be implemented. But ministers have so far refused to put the system on an emergency footing. Ministers burying their heads in the sand doesn’t reassure the public that the Government has a contingency plan in place that won’t put public safety at risk” 


Editors’ notes


  1. The population as of 7 February stands at 85,235 – up 238 on last week
  2. Total capacity stands at 85,609 – meaning the system is now operating at 99.56% of capacity
  3. There are just 374 places left – the smallest number so far under this Government since May 2010
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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