Page last updated at 18:55 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 19:55 UK

Prison numbers 'over safe limit'

MSPs have been considering a report on the rising prison population

The prison population has risen above safe limits, according to the Auditor General for Scotland.

Robert Black told Holyrood's Audit Committee the limit was 8,126, but jails were housing about 8,137 inmates.

Mr Black was commenting on committee responses by the prison service and the Scottish Government following an Audit Scotland study on inmate numbers.

He quoted inmate figures given to The Herald last week by Scottish Prison Service chief executive Mike Ewart.

Mr Ewart had told the newspaper that prisons were in a state of "emergency" with overcrowding putting the country at risk.

Mr Black told MSPs that last year the prison population was projected to reach 8,100 by 2010, including those on home detention curfew, and 8,500 by 2016-17.

He said: "Not by 2010 but by 2008, we are over the edge of the assessed operational limit - the safe limit, as identified by the chief executive of the prison service.

"That reflects the seriousness of the situation as far as Mike Ewart now sees it."

The committee is to pass the issue to Holyrood's Justice Committee.

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