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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Crowded jails could incite 'another Strangeways'
Strangeways
Prison disturbances could return if numbers keep rising

A repeat of the notorious Strangeways prison riot is on the cards unless measures are taken to tackle overcrowding, the prison officers union has warned.

Peter Cartwright, from the national executive board of the Prison Officer's Association (PRA) said he was concerned by a recent rise in protests and disruption.

His comments came as the Howard League for Penal Reform released findings which suggest nearly two-thirds of prisoners are living in overcrowded conditions.

The prison population currently stands at 71,471 and has already risen by 6,000 this year.

Likely protests

Mr Cartwright, a serving officer at Fullsutton prison, near York, told BBC News Online the current situation was creating increasingly disenchanted prisoners.

He said: "Many are being moved long distances to find a place and some are even being held in police cells.

"This is only going to create a greater likelihood of protests like we have seen in the past at Strangeways.

Pentonville
London's Pentonville Prison: scene of disturbances

"We have already seen a worrying increase in disturbances in recent months."

Mr Cartwright highlighted troubles last weekend at London's Pentonville prison as well as trouble as Home House jail, near Stockton on Tees, Teesside.

He added: "It is only so long before we get a serious protest. Lord Woolf's report into the Strangeways riot pointed to overcrowding as the key catalyst.

"But the government doesn't seem to be taking any steps to address this."

The riot at Strangeways prison, Manchester, in 1998, claimed the lives of two men and raged for 25 days.

It caused 60 million damage to the jail, which has since been renamed HMP Manchester.

Mr Cartwright said the POA supported the Howard League's call for more early releases, as well as a cap on prison numbers.

However, while the Home Office admits overcrowding is an issue it has refused to place a ceiling on the jail population.

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