Prison population in England and Wales at record high

A prisoner Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke wants more emphasis placed on rehabilitation

The number of prisoners in England and Wales has reached an all-time high, the Ministry of Justice has said.

Its latest figures showed the prison population now stands at 85,495 - just more than 2,000 short of the usable operational capacity.

The new figures tops the previous record set just last week by 127.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has said the numbers are too high, and he wants a greater emphasis placed on rehabilitation and community sentences.

Start Quote

We must act now or pay the tax and social costs of a penal system stretched beyond its limits”

End Quote Roma Hooper Make Justice Work

'Not convinced'

Deputy director of the Prison Reform Trust, Geoff Dobson, said Mr Clarke had an opportunity at the Conservative Party conference next week to reverse the "unsustainable trend" in expanding numbers.

"He could call a halt to this upward drift by ensuring that petty offenders do enforced community work, people who are mentally ill are diverted into healthcare, and addicts into treatment," he said.

Roma Hooper, director of Make Justice Work, said the latest figures were a final warning.

She said: "Locking up thousands of low-level offenders for short periods of time has certainly contributed to the flood of new prisoners.

"Ken Clarke has broken the dam by admitting short-term prison sentences don't work.

"Now Ed Miliband has said he agrees... we must act now or pay the tax and social costs of a penal system stretched beyond its limits."

Mr Clarke outlined reforms in June, saying there must be other penalties. They include paying private firms and voluntary groups according to how many prisoners they rehabilitate.

He said locking people up for the sake of it was a waste of public funds.

But former Conservative Home Secretary Michael Howard said at the time he was "not convinced".

He said: "I think in order to protect the public, serious and persistent criminals need to be put in prison.

"I think that is what conscientious judges and magistrates are doing at present and I think that is the best way of protecting the public."

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More UK stories

RSS

Features

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.