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Last Updated: Friday, 1 June 2007, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Record prison population drops
Prison cell
The government plans to create 8,000 new prison places
The UK prison population has fallen by almost 200 from a record high, according to latest figures.

Statistics show that on 1 June there were 80,614 prisoners in the system.

That total includes 264 criminals held in police cells under emergency powers - Operation Safeguard - to help deal with overcrowding.

The Ministry of Justice says the numbers in police cells have dropped and there are also extra refurbished spaces in the prison system.

According to the latest figures from the prison service, the number of inmates in the system fell by 189 from a record high on 25 May. On that date, there were just 320 spare places in the prison system.

New ministry

The number of inmates in both jails and police cells under Operation Safeguard have fallen in the past week.

At the same time, more than 300 extra prison spaces have opened because of completed renovation work, meaning there are now 844 spare places in the system.

Responsibility for prisons has passed to the new Ministry of Justice, which has announced plans to reduce numbers.

Measures under consideration include a review of sentences, a cap on terms for prisoners who breach their licence, and restrictions on the types of crimes which are punishable by suspended sentences.

On the same Friday in 2006, there were 77,595 inmates in prisons and none held in police cells.

Operation Safeguard was launched in October 2006 as the prison population hovered around 80,000. Ministers say another 8,000 spaces will be available within five years - but critics say that they will not solve overcrowding.

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