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Prison population at all-time high

The prison population in England and Wales has reached an all-time high for the third week running, new figures have revealed .

The total number of prisoners hit 87,214, 94 higher than last week's record high of 87,120 and about 1,600 short of the usable operational capacity of 88,818, Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics showed.

The rising prison population has been fuelled by tough sentences for those involved in last month's riots along with two-thirds of defendants being held on remand, compared with just one in 10 for serious offences last year.

As well as the increase in the proportion of defendants being held on remand over the riots, sentences for those involved in the violence and looting were also tougher - those involved in the riots have been jailed for an average of 10.4 months for violent disorder, compared with an average of 5.3 months last year.

For burglary, the average for those involved in the riots was 14.1 months, compared with 8.8 months last year.

But no prison places are currently activated under Operation Safeguard, which would involve using cells at police stations as accommodation for prisoners, the MoJ said.

Other contingency plans could involve bringing on new accommodation early, using extra places in the public and private estate or reopening mothballed accommodation.

The usable operational capacity is the total number of prisoners that the jails in England and Wales can hold, taking into account control, security and the proper operation of the planned regime, less 2,000 places.

This reflects the constraints imposed by the need to provide separate accommodation for different prisoners, perhaps because of their sex, age, security category, conviction status, or because of a single cell risk assessment. It also reflects the geographical distribution of the places, the MoJ said.


From Belfast Telegraph