Guernsey Press

Prisons overcrowding crisis ‘worse than I thought’, says Starmer

The Prime Minister is expected to give the go-ahead to legislation to allow the early release of prisoners.


The prisons overcrowding crisis is “worse than I thought” the Prime Minister admitted as the new Labour Government considers freeing more criminals early.

Sir Keir Starmer said he was “pretty shocked” at the scale of the situation and claimed the previous government was “reckless”.

It comes after his Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, warned there was no “quick fix” to easing pressure on jail space.

“I’m pretty shocked that it’s been allowed to get into that situation. It’s reckless to allow them to get into that place. We’ll be saying more about that in short order,” Sir Keir said.

Sir Keir is said to be expected to authorise emergency measures this week which could see criminals automatically freed after serving 40% of their sentence.

Newly appointed Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood has been told the move could stop prisons running out of space within weeks, according to reports.

An announcement on what measures are to be taken is anticipated within the coming days.

Prison governors and union leaders have been warning for months that jails could reach capacity if no further action is taken.

As of Friday last week, the prison population stood at 87,453 with a “usable operational capacity” of 88,864, indicating 1,411 spaces are available, according to the latest available Government figures.

This does not include about 1,350 other cell spaces which are always kept free as a contingency measure, so prisons have the capacity to operate safely and respond to any urgent or unforeseen circumstances.

The next figures are due to be published on Friday.

The previous government expanded measures by which some inmates could be released from jail up to 70 days early, in a bid to free up prison cells, but concerns were raised that dangerous criminals could end up being eligible despite officials insisting offenders would continue to be supervised under strict conditions.

The Ministry of Justice was already building six new prisons to create an extra 20,000 places as demand grows for cell spaces, partially because of the Government’s recruitment campaign to hire 20,000 more police officers.

About 6,000 spaces have been created already and about 10,000 will be built by the end of 2025.

Labour has said it wants to build more prisons but whether the programme will continue as planned since the change in government remains to be seen.

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