Inmates could be held in police cells due to an increase in prison overcrowding

READING, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01: A general view inside the former Reading Prison building on September 1st 2016 in Reading, England. The former reading prison has opened to the public for the first time, inviting artists and writers to take part in a new project by Artangel, featuring works by leading artists such as Marlene Dumas, Robert Gober, Nan Goldin, Steve McQueen and Ai Weiwei. The exhibition is open to the public from September 4, 2016. Included in the exhibit is former inmate Oscar Wilde's original wooden cell door, which is on display in the prison chapel. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

According to new figures, around 14,000 prisoners are currently in custody (Image: Getty)

Prisoners could be held in police cells to reduce “acute and sudden” prison overcrowding.

Justice Department calls for emergency use of 400 police cells after prison spaces run out.

The government blames the lawyers’ strike for spiking the number of pre-trial detainees, which currently stands at around 14,000.

Justice Secretary Damian Hinds told MPs that the government had asked for the cells to be used following a sudden surge in the prison population in recent months.

In a statement in the House of Commons on Wednesday, he said: “In recent months we have witnessed an acute and sudden increase in the prison population, partly due to the aftermath of the Criminal Bar Association’s strike action over the summer, which resulted in a significant higher number of offenders in pre-trial detention.

“As trials resume, we are seeing a flood of offenders coming through the criminal justice system, which is particularly straining the capacity of adult male prisons.”

He added: “I announce today that we have written to the National Police Chiefs Council to request the temporary use of up to 400 police cells through an established protocol called Operation Safeguard.”

The B-Wing facility for newly arrived prisoners at HMP Liverpool, also known as Walton Prison. The prison received a damning report in 2017 that highlighted various shortcomings and problems. The current governor, Pia Sinha, was appointed that year and over the next two years she turned the prison around with a program of inmate and infrastructure improvement and support. HMP Liverpool houses a maximum of 700 prisoners with a total staff of around 250. (Photo by Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty Images)

Around 400 police cells are to be loaned out by the government after prisons run out of space for prisoners (Picture: Getty)

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The overcrowding of the prison system is “further proof that we can no longer afford the costs of the Conservatives”.

Shadow Justice Secretary Ellie Reeves told the House of Commons: “This is yet another crisis caused by this chaotic Tory government. It is hard to imagine a more damning indictment of this government’s law and order failures than the fact that it has now run out of cells to incarcerate criminals.

“But it is hardly surprising if 10,000 prison places have been lost under the Tories.

“Not only that, 663 police stations have closed, so who knows how long it will be before this contingency plan needs its own contingency plan?

“While we are fed up with too few cells, in response to a recent Parliamentary question we found that the Tories have spent over £1million keeping prisons closed over the last five years.

“Just further proof that we can no longer afford the costs of the Conservatives.”

The increase in prison overcrowding is “the first time ever” that it has risen so rapidly, a minister said.

In response to Labour, Justice Secretary Damian Hinds told the Commons: “At no point in the last five years have we had less than a thousand cells available across the prison grounds.

“We have not run out of prison places and this does not reflect a failure in forward planning. We planned absolutely ahead, stuck to our expansion program and even brought forward investments.

“But there was also this highly unusual acute short-term surge, surges of over 700 and then over 800 in the last two months. It’s the first time ever that we’re seeing this kind of increase in two consecutive months.

“There are a number of capacity increase options that we have, but they’re just not possible, they’re not available in this short time frame.”

Mr Hinds said the overcrowding was “specific to adult male estates,” adding: “There is ample capacity in women’s and youth estates.”

The Conservative leader of the Judiciary Committee, Sir Bob Neill, said the number of prisoners had “increased exponentially”.

He said: “It’s not the first time this has had to happen but will he realize there are two factors at play here?

“One of them has been the underlying upward trend in prison numbers over the past few decades or so. The number of prisons has increased exponentially and perhaps there is a case where we should look again at whether it is appropriate to hold non-violent offenders in custody as opposed to the dangerous people we need to incarcerate?’

Justice Secretary Damian Hinds replied: “He is right that the prison population has been increasing, it is not at its highest level but it has been increasing recently. That’s partly because of tougher penalties for the worst offences, and I think that’s absolutely right and what the public expects and wants.

“It’s also true that there are alternatives to prison sentences for other types of crimes that can be better on occasion and for certain individuals to get people back on track and it’s very important that we do these things.” make full use of it.”

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https://metro.co.uk/2022/11/30/government-runs-out-of-prison-space-and-asks-to-use-400-police-cells-17853771/ Inmates could be held in police cells due to an increase in prison overcrowding

Justin Scacco

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