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Last Updated: Friday, 22 December 2006, 21:00 GMT
Police cell measures come to end
Wembley police station
The arrangement to use police cells was last used in 1992
Emergency measures to hold prisoners in police cells are due to end on Saturday, the Home Office has said.

The arrangement known as Operation Safeguard came into effect in October to ease an overcrowding crisis in prisons in England and Wales.

The number of inmates topped 80,000 for the first time in history last month.

Data from the National Offender Management Service shows the prison population now stands at 79,627, including 57 held in police cells.

Some 57 others are under supervision as part of home detention curfew arrangements.

The prison system has capacity for some 80,157 inmates.

More cells

The Operation Safeguard arrangement with the Association of Chief Police Officers is costly to run and reduces the amount of space available to police to house those under arrest.

Home Secretary John Reid has promised a further 8,000 prison spaces will be created.

The government is examining a range of options to increase the current capacity.

"As of tomorrow Operation Safeguard will no longer be in force but the formal arrangement with Acpo is there and could be used again," a Home Office spokesperson said.

The arrangement was last used in 2002, as a result of an overcrowding crisis when the number of prisoners stood at 72,000.

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