Shropshire prison holding too many people, figures show

A Shropshire prison is holding too many offenders and other West Midlands jails are close to full, it was claimed today.

Shropshire prison holding too many people, figures show

HMP Stoke Heath near Market Drayton is operating at 110%, holding 728 prisoners, despite space for only 662.

The figures, released by the Howard League of Penal Reform, show how prisons are being forced to take more people into cells than they can accommodate.

The data shows each prison's Certified Normal Accommodation (CNA) levels – the prison service's measure of how many prisoners can be held safely and decently – compared to how many people are being kept in the jails.

Prisoner numbers at the Stoke Heath prison have risen since last year by 86, despite CNA figures showing only another 20 could have been given space.

HMP Featherstone, near Wolverhampton, is also holding too many offenders, with 16 more prisoners in custody than it can manage.

Both HMP Oakwood and HMP Brinsford, also in Featherstone, and which serve Shropshire, are both close to the brim, operating at 99 % and 96%. The Ministry of Justice data, obtained by the penal reform charity through a Freedom of Information request, revealed that three in four men's jails are holding more people than they are designed for.

The figures come after it was revealed last week that two prison officers were in charge of 59 prisoners, including one from Telford, when a riot broke out at HMP Oakwood that saw staff lose control for nine hours.

Inmates caused damage estimated at £171,000 as they ran rampage at the £160 million super-jail. Security firm G4S, which runs the prison, and the Ministry of Justice say the staffing level on the day was "comparable" to those at public sector jails.

The prisoners took over two levels of Cedar wing at 5pm on January 4 last year, barricading themselves inside and putting glue in locks to prevent them from working.

The most overcrowded prison was Leeds – designed for 669 prisoners but holding 1,218 at the end of January 2015. Other prisons with an overcrowding crisis include Swansea, Wandsworth, Leicester and Exeter.

Between the end of January 2013 and the end of January 2015, the prison population rose from 83,062 to 83,680, while the number of places was cut from 78,935 to 75,374.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "Caging men in squalor with nothing to do all day is never going to help them become law-abiding citizens on release."

Mr Cook said the charity is working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison – something that is not helped by overcrowding.

He said: "Far too many people are being sent into already overcrowded jails and the need to stem the flow is now urgent. Government must get a grip on a prison system in crisis that is feeding the crime problem."

The data revealed prisoners were "doubled-up" or "trebled-up" in cells to make more room – holding two people in a cell designed for one, or three people in a cell meant for two.

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