Prison overcrowding crisis is ‘out of control’

Lancaster Farms.

Lancaster Farms.

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Lancaster Farms is struggling to cope as figures released this week reveal the scale of the overcrowding crisis within prisons.

Staff cuts and closures are partly to blame for the rise of the prisoner population, claims a spokesman for the prison worker’s trade union.

The situation is getting out of control and we are demanding the service realises this situation can’t go on

Lancaster Farms was among the many prisons across England and Wales under pressure as they are forced to cram more people into cells.

The Quernmore Road prison in Lancaster is a male unit and is the sole dedicated Young Offender Institution (YOI) for the North West.

Lancaster Farms is designed to hold 495 prisoner but was holding 540 at the end of January 2015.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data, analysed by the Howard League for Penal Reform, revealed three in four men’s jails are holding more people than they are designed for.

The most overcrowded prison was Leeds, designed to accommodate 669 prisoners, was holding 1,218 at the end of January 2015.

Glyn Travis, assistant general secretary for Profession Trades Union for Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers (POA), said: “Both on a local and national level prison overcrowding is on the increase and as a result of that it is putting more and more pressure on Lancaster Farms.

“The situation is getting out of control and we are demanding the service realises this situation can’t go on, staff cuts can’t go on and prisons should not be closing.

“Lancaster Farms has more of a rehabilitation system which is probably why it is not so overcrowded as others.”

Between the end of January 2013 and the end of January 2015, the national prison population (excluding immigration removal centres) rose from 83,062 to 83,680.

Over the same period, 12 prisons were either closed or re-roled and the number of places was cut from 78,935 to 75,374.

Mr Travis said: “Staff feel very angry and are finding all their good work they have done over the years has gone to waste, morale is very low.

“There are all sorts of safety systems in place but that doesn’t take away the fact that problems still occur.”

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Government must get a grip on a prison system in crisis that is feeding the crime problem.”