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Call to halt prison building scheme

Prison building will not ease the problem of jail overcrowding, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has been warned

Clarke should instead focus his efforts on reducing the number of incarcerated people, the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) said, urging an immediate moratorium on the building of new jails.

While the previous government let more than 80,000 prisoners out early in a bid to curb overcrowding, population levels hit a record high of 85,076 in April.

The Conservatives hope to tackle the problem by increasing jail capacity by building new facilities and deporting foreign nationals earlier to save space.

The party’s manifesto read: ‘In the last three years, 80,000 criminals have been released early from prison because the Government failed to build enough places. We are determined that early release will not be introduced again, so we will redevelop the prison estate and increase capacity as necessary to stop it.’

But the PRT says each new prison place would cost £170,000 to build and maintain, adding the strategy would nothing to reduce re-offending and, consequently, overcrowding.

Director Juliet Lyon said: ‘A moratorium on prison building would be a first step in reversing the disastrous legacy of the past two decades which has seen the prison population almost double, while rates of re-offending have rocketed.’

Prisons have been more than packed-full since 1994, the charity added, with nearly a quarter of criminals sharing a cell designed for one person between April 2008 and February 2009.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman welcomed the charity’s comments, calling them ‘an interesting and timely contribution to the debate on prison reform’.


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