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Prisons nearly full: Government

Prisons in England and Wales are nearly full, the Ministry of Justice has said.

Last summer's riots prompted a "significant rise" in people sent to jail. New figures show the total number of inmates was 87,668 - filling prisons to 98.1% capacity.

Some 407 prisoners were put behind bars in the past week.

The MoJ said the "usable operational capacity" is 89,399, just 1,731 above the current population.

However, there have been no places activated under their contingency plan Operation Safeguard, when prisoners are held in cells at police stations and courts if numbers are at breaking point.

According to the MoJ, two new prisons due to open this year should ease the strain.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "We have seen a significant rise in the prison population since the summer, with very strong rises following the public disorder.

"Managing the increase in the population is challenging but we have been continually developing contingencies to manage the additional population.

"We currently have enough prison places for those being remanded and sentenced to custody. Capacity will continue to increase throughout 2012 with the opening of two new prisons from March. We will continue to explore contingencies arrangements should further pressure be placed on the prison estate."

The highest published figure was 88,179 on Friday December 2 2011.

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