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Uk prison population hits new record

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Prison population hits new record
PA News
08 March 2004

The prison population has reached a new record, passing the 75,000 mark for the first time, the Prison Service said today.

The new total of 75,007 was announced a day after Prisons Minister Paul Goggins admitted criminals were being locked up in police cells because jails are "more or less full".

In a statement released today, Mr Goggins blamed the use of short prison sentences for non-serious offenders.

"Today's prison population has reached more than 75,000 for the first time in history.

"This is despite the fact that crime has fallen since 1997.

"The use of short prison sentences for non-serious offenders continues to clog up the prison system with offenders who could be better punished and rehabilitated in the community.

"Reform of the criminal justice system and correctional services is focused towards ensuring that sentencers can make greater use of community punishments.

"We are working with sentencers, through the new sentencing guidelines council, to ensure that we reverse the sentencing drift that has seen the prison population grow over the last decade."

The continuing rise in prison sentences means jails in England and Wales could be full in a matter of days. The Prison Service's "usable operational capacity" is 75,191.

Prison reformers are demanding urgent action to reduce the number of inmates instead of holding the overspill in police stations.

Frances Crook, director of The Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "It's not appropriate to keep prisoners there, it's not safe for them and it costs a huge amount of money and it keeps the police from doing their job properly."

Jan Berry, chairman of the Police Federation, has also expressed concern, saying: "Police cells are not designed or equipped to house prisoners for long periods.

"Neither is it the role of police officers to be prison wardens."

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