A series of revelations highlighted the current crisis caused by prison overcrowding:
· The Government has ordered that dangerous criminals on
indeterminate sentences be moved to lower-security prisons
· Figures from a ministerial written statement show that the
Government is asking for an extra £35m to cope with the costs of Operation
Safeguard (Previous parliamentary questions by the Liberal Democrats revealed that
the Government spent £28 million on Operation Safeguard in 2007)
· A report published today last Wednesday by the BMA says that ‘prisoner safety is being put at risk by the Government’s inhumane, expensive and overstretched use of temporary prison accommodation’
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Justice Secretary, David Heath said:
“This marks a new low in the Government’s mishandling of our penal system. Britain’s mismanaged prisons are in a state of complete disarray and the Government is having to take increasingly desperate measures to prevent a complete meltdown.
“The decision to move dangerous criminals into lower security prisons highlights how the Government introduced indeterminate sentences in a blaze of publicity but with scant regard for how they would work in practice.
“The Prison Service is having to take drastic action now because Government legislation has driven prison numbers to record levels.
“Holding prisoners in police and court cells has left forensic physicians
unable to cope, prisoners at risk, and contributes directly to reoffending. The answer is not to further burden the police or court services but to take people out of prison who should not be there, such as those with mental health problems and drug addictions, and move them to more appropriate accommodation.
“We used to say that the Government was spending more on keeping prisoners in police cells than it would cost to have them stay at the Ritz. But now Jack Straw could have used the £35 million extra he’s been given for Operation Safeguard to buy his own chain of hotels.”