Plans to increase prison capacity by 20,000 places is no longer deliverable until 2030, The Guardian reports.
Three, of six new prisons being built, will no longer be operational by the planned 2027 date. It is now “hoped” they would be open by 2030. These delays are caused by planning issues, which include the fact that badgers presently live on one of the sites.
This comes as prison populations reach a peak of 87,685, meaning there are only 629 remaining spaces before “usable operational capacity” is reached. This is a 7% increase on the previous year.
Two prisons under this prison expansion scheme have already opened, and a third is currently under construction. These will account for 8,000 of the planned 20,000 places.
Pia Sinha, the chief executive of the Prison Reform Trust, said: ‘The Prison Service will not be able to build its way out of the capacity crisis it is facing. Ministers now have no choice – however politically unpalatable they must now bring forward proposals to urgently reduce demand on the system.’
The Justice Select Committee is presently holding an inquiry into the future prison population and estate capacity. The chairman, Sir Bob Neill, said this development ‘raises questions about the lack of joined up thinking’ on prison numbers: ‘there must be a rethink so that the Home Office stops calling for longer sentences and the Ministry of Justice anticipates these problems. The government cannot keep trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot’.