Revealed: The true scale of overcrowding in prisons in England and Wales

Press release

2 September 2013

Revealed: The true scale of overcrowding in prisons in England and Wales

Almost 20,000 prisoners were kept in overcrowded cells last year, figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today (2 September).

New research by the charity illustrates the true scale of prison overcrowding in England and Wales – showing that the problem is far greater than ministers have suggested.

The figures show that, during the financial year 2012-13, about 19,140 prisoners on average were forced to share a cell designed for one person.

A further 777 prisoners were made to sleep three to a cell, when the cells were designed to accommodate only two.

Official government prison population announcements mask the full extent of overcrowding because they do not state how many cells are holding more prisoners than they are designed to.

The worst-affected prison in England and Wales was Wandsworth, where on a typical day 835 prisoners were forced to share cells which contain an open toilet.

Other overcrowded prisons included Altcourse, Doncaster, Birmingham, Pentonville, Preston, Manchester, Elmley, Nottingham and Durham.

The figures come less than a week after a report showed prison staff numbers have fallen by 17% over the last four years.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “At last, we have the picture of the real state of overcrowding in our prisons. It’s far worse than anyone imagined: one in four people behind bars are packed like sardines into cramped cells.

“It should come as little surprise that such crowded conditions leave staff hugely overstretched, especially as more are being laid off. This means there are little to no opportunities for prisoners to work, learn or take courses to turn them away from crime.

“Staff cuts and overcrowding mean that grown men spend all weekend and up to 22 hours a day during the week cooped up like battery chickens – no wonder violence and self-injury is rife.

“If the Ministry of Justice is serious about reducing reoffending it must tackle overcrowding now. Successive governments have peddled the lie that you can build your way out of a prisons overcrowding problem.

“While public services are being cut, ministers should look at more effective and affordable solutions. They need to address the fact the prison population has doubled in just 20 years and move people on to community sentences.

“Government assessments published last month show that every probation service in the country is working efficiently at keeping the public safe, whilst failing prisons contribute to the crime problem.

“We can have the prisons that taxpayers deserve – ones that turn lives around rather than coop people up and make them more dangerous – but only if numbers are seriously reduced."

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. Details of prison staff cuts can be found in the National Offender Management Service Workforce Statistics Bulletin, published by the Ministry of Justice: 
  3. The Howard League for Penal Reform obtained prison overcrowding data through a freedom of information request submitted to the Ministry of Justice.
  4. The figures show the number of prisoners, on average, who were forced to share an overcrowded cell in 2012-13.
  5. Overcrowding data for each prison in England and Wales is shown in the table below:

Prison

Number of prisoners per prison sharing overcrowded cells designed for 1

Number of prisoners per prison sharing overcrowded cells designed for 2

Albany

11

0

Altcourse

659

98

Ashfield

0

0

Askham Grange

0

0

Aylesbury

17

0

Bedford

277

12

Belmarsh

0

328

Birmingham

670

0

Blantyre House

0

0

Blundeston

35

28

Brinsford

0

0

Bristol

162

0

Brixton

128

0

Bronzefield

0

0

Buckley Hall

59

0

Bullingdon

366

0

Bullwood Hall

17

0

Bure

38

0

Camp Hill

254

0

Canterbury

160

0

Cardiff

483

0

Channings Wood

71

0

Chelmsford

240

0

Coldingley

0

0

Cookham Wood

0

0

Dartmoor

27

0

Deerbolt

0

0

Doncaster

729

0

Dorchester

176

1

Dovegate

128

0

Dover (IRC)

0

0

Downview

0

0

Drake Hall

0

0

Durham

559

0

East Sutton Park

0

0

Eastwood Park

58

0

Elmley

360

237

Erlestoke

0

0

Everthorpe

115

0

Exeter

416

0

Featherstone

23

0

Feltham

0

0

Ford

0

0

Forest Bank

539

0

Foston Hall

3

0

Frankland

0

0

Full Sutton

0

0

Garth

32

0

Gartree

0

0

Glen Parva

348

0

Gloucester

166

0

Grendon

0

0

Guys Marsh

92

0

Haslar (IRC)

0

0

Hatfield

0

0

Haverigg

31

0

Hewell

304

0

High Down

180

17

Highpoint

47

1

Hindley

0

0

Hollesley Bay

0

0

Holloway

0

0

Holme House

255

0

Hull

286

0

Huntercombe

103

0

Isis

209

0

Kennet

290

0

Kingston

0

0

Kirkham

0

0

Kirklevington Grange

0

0

Lancaster Farms

93

0

Latchmere House

0

0

Leeds

546

0

Leicester

307

0

Lewes

55

0

Leyhill

0

0

Lincoln

469

0

Lindholme

91

0

Littlehey

126

0

Liverpool

352

0

Long Lartin

0

0

Low Newton

32

0

Lowdham Grange

44

0

Maidstone

58

0

Manchester

601

0

Moorland

82

0

Morton Hall (IRC)

0

0

Mount

38

0

New Hall

31

1

North Sea Camp

80

0

Northallerton

162

0

Northumberland

0

0

Norwich

233

14

Nottingham

575

0

Oakwood

0

0

Onley

0

0

Parc

278

0

Parkhurst

141

0

Pentonville

659

0

Peterborough Female

0

0

Peterborough Male

129

0

Portland

0

0

Prescoed

15

1

Preston

642

0

Ranby

356

0

Reading

185

0

Risley

39

0

Rochester

0

0

Rye Hill

0

0

Send

0

0

Shepton Mallet

35

0

Shrewsbury

273

0

Spring Hill

0

0

Stafford

0

0

Standford Hill

0

0

Stocken

105

0

Stoke Heath

175

0

Styal

18

0

Sudbury

0

0

Swaleside

0

0

Swansea

356

21

Swinfen Hall

53

0

Thameside

253

0

Thorn Cross

0

0

Usk

190

19

Verne

55

0

Wakefield

0

0

Wandsworth

835

0

Warren Hill

0

0

Wayland

97

0

Wealstun

30

0

Wellingborough

0

0

Werrington

0

0

Wetherby

0

0

Whatton

71

0

Whitemoor

0

0

Winchester

402

0

Wolds

97

0

Woodhill

313

0

Wormwood Scrubs

124

0

Wymott

130

0

Contact

Rob Preece
Press Officer
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