Clarke 'plans to close six prisons'
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke is planning to close six jails at a cost of 5,000 cells as his ministry seeks to cut its budget by almost a quarter, it has been claimed.
The Times reported that the plans would be set out in a Green Paper aimed at reducing the number of offenders behind bars.
The paper said that George Osborne's demand in last month's spending review for a 23% reduction in the Ministry of Justice's (MoJ) budget by 2014/15 will cost around 10,000 jobs, with six prisons in England and Wales slated for closure.
A spokeswoman for the MoJ responded: "We expect that by the end of the spending review period, the number of prisoners will be around 3,000 lower than it is today - equivalent to 2008 levels.
"We are looking at the sentencing frameworks for adults and young offenders, as well as the full range of penalties available in the criminal justice system.
"Long-term decisions on prison capacity programmes will be taken in the light of these policy developments."
Meanwhile, Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick told The Times that the treatment of some inmates in prisons in England and Wales was "a disgrace".
"You look at the conditions some people are in and what's happening to them and the lack of care they are getting and you think:, 'this is just a disgrace'," said Mr Hardwick.
He said that prisoners spent too much time doing nothing and too little attention was given to stopping them returning to a life of crime after release.
Even in the workshops which are supposed to provide them with purposeful activity, "there's a lot of sitting around playing cards", he said.