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11 Jun 2015

Prison overcrowding

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to a written statement on prison overcrowding, delivered today by the Minister for Prisons, Probation and Rehabilitation, Andrew Selous.

The Ministry of Justice has apologised after it found that figures contained in the National Offender Management Service Annual Report and figures published in the Prison Performance Digest, had understated the level of prison overcrowding in each year back to 2008-09.

The statement adds: “These incorrect figures have in turn informed public statements from the Ministry of Justice, including statements to Parliament.”

The statement comes almost two years after the Howard League published research showing that almost 20,000 prisoners were being kept in overcrowded conditions in England and Wales.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is a timely written statement, and we welcome the new culture of honesty and accountability at the Ministry of Justice. Simple logic dictates that if two or three prisoners are sharing a cell designed for one, then all those people are being held in overcrowded conditions. We are pleased that the government’s figures will now reflect this, as the Howard League has made this point repeatedly for many years. Holding men in overcrowded cells with nothing to do all day is never going to help them become law-abiding citizens on release, and it is important that the true scale of overcrowding will be made known. Only by knowing what the problem is can we work together to find a solution.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. The Ministry of Justice publishes prison population data weekly. The statistics are collated on the ‘Weekly Prison Watch’ page on the Howard League website.
  3. In September 2013, the Howard League published research showing that almost 20,000 prisoners were being held in overcrowded conditions in England and Wales.


Rob Preece
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