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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
UK prisons 'full in two months'
Mike Newell, president, Prison Governors' Association
Newell - fears prison reforms will worsen the problem
Jails across England and Wales will run out of places by the new year, it has been warned.

Mike Newell, head of The Prison Governors' Association, said the problem was so severe that 330 inmates were having to be held in police cells.

And Mr Newell has put the blame for the problem squarely at the feet of the UK Government, saying new policies on sentencing were pushing jails to population breaking point.

At 72,400, the number of prisoners is at an all-time high.

Inmate inside his cell
Some prisons double up in cells meant for one

Speaking to his association's annual conference in Gloucestershire, Mr Newell described the problem of overcrowding as "a very bad crisis" saying there would be no spaces left by January.

He said measures designed to fast-track offenders through the courts were partly to blame, while proposals to increase the sentencing powers of magistrates would make matters worse.

Mr Newell called on the Home Office to reduce the number of inmates held on remand, by freeing them on bail fitted with electronic tags.

Security risk

Last month, a survey revealed that more than three quarters of prisons were suffering from worsening overcrowding.

A total of 77% of prison Boards of Visitors said when questioned that their institution had been adversely affected by spiralling numbers of inmates.

At the time, the Prison Reform Trust warned the situation was putting security and safety at risk.

And in August, the Howard League for Penal Reform warned that nearly two-thirds of Britain's prisoners were being held in overcrowded jails.

Worst was HMP Preston with 661 prisoners - but only 356 places.

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