WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
May 21 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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Prison system ‘sleepwalking’ into a crisis over overcrowding

Prison system ‘sleepwalking’ into a crisis over overcrowding

A view of D wing at HMP Wandsworth Prison. Pic: Andy Aitchison

A quarter of prisoners in England and Wales are sharing cells designed for just one person according to new figures from the Ministry of Justice.

As reported in The Guardian, 11,018 cells designed for one person were being shared by two prisoners, and 18 one-person cells were being shared by three prisoners.

Steve Gillan, head of the Prison Officers Association, said we are ‘sleepwalking into a crisis’.

He added: ‘It is no wonder that the prison service is struggling to retain prison officers and operational support grades in England and Wales. The pressure on staff is intolerable and dangerous.’

The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Charlie Taylor, said that the problem is compounded by a lack of meaningful activity in prisons. He explained that if prisoners were sharing cells at night but undertaking employment and education activities during the day it would be less concerning, but in reality many are locked in these cramped cells for 23 hours a day.

This also means essential maintenance work on cells is delayed because the prisoners are rarely elsewhere in the prison.

As previously reported in the Justice Gap, three in five prisons in England and Wales are overcrowded. This has been exacerbated by the introduction of longer sentences and huge backlogs in the courts. Problems are particularly acute in Victorian-era jails.

According to the Howard League for Penal Reform, 87,505 people are currently being held in prison, with this predicted to rise to over 114,000 in the next four years.