Three Prisons in Wales Included in Top 20 UK List for Overcrowding; Lib Dems Say Figures Highlight Government's 'Chronic Failures'

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 25, 2009 | Go to article overview

Three Prisons in Wales Included in Top 20 UK List for Overcrowding; Lib Dems Say Figures Highlight Government's 'Chronic Failures'


Byline: Tomos Livingstone

THREE Welsh prisons are among the most overcrowded in the UK, a charity warned last night.

The Prison Reform Trust released a list of the 20 most overcrowded jails, and warned that Ministers risked viewing the problem as too difficult to deal with.

The charity also said the Government had indulged in tough-sounding "sentence inflation" that had led to more people being kept behind bars.

It said Swansea, which held 395 inmates in July despite being designed for 230, was the second worst institution for overcrowding.

It ranked Usk in sixth place (designed for 153 but holding 256) and Cardiff (designed 548 but holding 797) in fifteenth.

Shrewsbury, which also takes offenders from mid Wales, is the most overcrowded prison, the group said.

Overall there are 8,865 more prisoners inside the prisons system than it was designed to hold.

A total of 88 out of 140 jails were over their Certified Normal Accommodation level - defined as providing "decent" standards.

In 2007 Ministers introduced a contentious early release system to ease prison overcrowding. The scheme has seen more than 47,000 prisons allowed out early, and even Justice Secretary Jack Straw has described the policy as "unsatisfactory".

In February Mr Straw's then-deputy, David Hanson, announced a new Welsh prison would be built in Caernarfon to tackle an estimated 1,200 shortfall in prison places in Wales.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "Pressure on public spending means that Ministers can no longer afford to be complacent about prison overcrowding or the high reconviction rates it leads to.

"Simply building more prisons is an expensive dead end. …

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