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Friday, 12 July, 2002, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Prison over-crowding crisis
Wormwood Scrubs
Prisons like Wormwood Scrubs in London are packed
Over-crowding in Britain's prisons has forced the Prison Service to house some inmates in police cells.

It is the first time in seven years such drastic measures have been needed, the service announced on Friday.

The prison population of England and Wales has reached an all-time high of 71,480 and prisoners are being moved into jail cells in the West Midlands and West Yorkshire, where local jails are full.

Pressure on prisons

It is believed other areas may soon have to take the same emergency measures, possibly the north east and north west.

A spokesman for the Prison Service said "every effort" was being made not to use the cells to house women and children.

He said the move was being made first in the West Midlands and West Yorkshire because these are the areas of the country where there is the "greatest pressure" on prison places.

Police cell
Prisoners will go behind bars in police cells

He added: "The aim will be to hold individual prisoners for a minimum period and not more than a few days unless they are appearing regularly at a local court."

The move is likely to anger prison reform campaigners because offenders will have no access to education or rehabilitation sessions and little chance to mix with other people.

Fees for cells

It is the first time prisoners have been routinely housed in police stations since 1995, although they have been used as stop-gaps in recent months.

There are 1,000 police cells across England and Wales which have been lined up for possible use, the spokesman said.

The Prison Service will pay fees to police forces to use their facilities but exact charges have yet to be agreed, he added.

The first inmates were expected to arrive at police stations on Friday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Andy Darken, Prison Officers Association
"It was a predictable increase"
David Roddan, Prison Governors Association
"What we really need is a fundamental review of sentencing in this country"
See also:

30 Aug 01 | Scotland
28 Dec 00 | UK
06 Aug 99 | Health
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