Page last updated at 01:51 GMT, Wednesday, 27 July 2005 02:51 UK

Jail population predictions rise

Prison bars
The Lib Dems said the government would miss its prison target

By June 2006, there could be 1,400 more prisoners in England and Wales than the highest predictions made this January, Home Office figures have revealed.

There could be up to 91,000 inmates by 2011, 3,300 more than the January estimate, the figures show.

The Home Office said the figures had been revised following a "significant departure" from previous prison trends.

Current capacity is about 77,000 and is to be just over 80,000 in three years, the Prison Service has previously said.

The prison population reached more than 76,000 for the first time on record in May of this year.

In January, it was predicted that here would be 74,230 inmates at the end of last month, but the figure actually reached 76,192.

The Home Office said the highest estimate was of a prison population of more than 90,780 by June 2011.

REVISED HIGHEST PREDICTIONS
More than 80,000 by end 2006
90,000 by end 2009
90,780 by June 2011

The shadow home secretary David Davis said the figures showed there were not enough prison places to keep up with the population increase.

"Prisons will be overcrowded, making it difficult to rehabilitate prisoners and there may well be too few places to imprison all those who should be put in jail."

He said the government's response so far "to simply let prisoners out early" was wrong.

If the government is serious about cutting prison numbers, it needs to speak up for crime-cutting community schemes
Lib Dem Mark Oaten
Home affairs spokesman

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "The government is bending over backwards to meet its target of keeping prison numbers under 80,000, but the latest figures suggest it's a lost cause.

"If the government is serious about cutting prison numbers, it needs to speak up for crime-cutting community schemes."

Reoffending

Chief executive of the Revolving Doors Agency, Julian Corner, said a prison population of more than 90,000 would lead to "unmanageable pressures across the prison and probation services".

He said that would "seriously undermine" the proposed reforms set out by the new National Offender Management Service to reduce reoffending.

The government should keep its nerve and its commitment to reserve prison for serious and violent offenders
Juliet Lyon
Prison Reform Trust

He said more needed to be done to address the substance misuse and mental health problems that were the "root cause" of many offenders' behaviour.

The director of the Prison Reform Trust, Juliet Lyon, said: "Faced with this crisis, the government should keep its nerve and its commitment to reserve prison for serious and violent offenders.

"The courts must have a full range of effective community penalties and the facility to divert the mentally ill into healthcare and those addicted to drugs into treatment.

"Public safety depends on prisons working to reduce serious crime, not acting as warehouses for all those failed by other public services."

SEE ALSO
Prisons 'bursting at the seams'
13 Mar 05 |  Leicestershire
Prison 'worst for overcrowding'
14 Dec 04 |  Scotland
Working behind bars
09 Nov 04 |  London

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