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Prison Accommodation

Volume 497: debated on Monday 12 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent steps his Department has taken to improve prison conditions. (287963)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 7 July 2009, Official Report, columns 668-69W.

The National Offender Management Service has a statutory duty to hold all prisoners in decent conditions.

As part of our commitment to increase the capacity of the prison estate to 96,000 places, we are building new prisons and expanding existing prisons. The new buildings produced by this capacity programme are providing modern accommodation that is fully compliant with relevant standards such as the new safer cell specification.

In addition, on 27 April I announced that, instead of building three 2,500 place “Titan” prisons, we plan to build five 1,500 place prisons. Our model will draw on best practice in the existing estate to provide first class regimes that will help offenders address their offending behaviour. The 7,500 places provided by these new prisons will allow for the closure of some of the most worn out places.

These measures support our aim not only to provide additional capacity, but to modernise the estate and improve the quality of accommodation.

For existing accommodation, we have a rolling programme of refurbishment that allows the critical maintenance of the estate to be undertaken.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of steps taken to reduce overcrowding in prisons in England and Wales. (291392)

The Government have been pursuing a clear strategy to increase capacity in the prison estate and to ensure that custody is properly targeted at those serious, dangerous and persistent offenders for whom imprisonment is necessary.

Since April 2007, over 5,200 places have been provided by the Capacity Programme and in 2009 alone, nearly 1,000 places have been delivered to date.