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Prison Places

Volume 511: debated on Tuesday 15 June 2010

13. How many and what proportion of prison inmates are accommodated on a doubled-up basis; and if he will make a statement. (2228)

In 2009-10, the average number of prisoners sharing a cell designed for one was approximately 19,000, and there are more than 1,000 cases in which three prisoners are sharing a cell designed for two. That overcrowding is concentrated in male local prisons, where 47.6% of prisoners are held in overcrowded conditions.

Will the Minister comment on the fact that the previous Government’s mismanagement of the indeterminate public protection sentencing regime in many ways contributed to that overcrowding? That was brought to my attention by a prisoner in HMP Erlestoke in my constituency, who copied me in on a very good letter to Inside Time this month. Will the Minister tell the House what he will do to help to reform the IPP regime?

I notice that the previous Government had to reform the IPP arrangements in 2008, having introduced them in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. We inherit a very serious problem with IPP prisoners. We have 6,000 IPP prisoners, well over 2,500 of whom have exceeded their tariff point. Many cannot get on courses because our prisons are wholly overcrowded and unable to address offending behaviour. That is not a defensible position.

In opposition, Conservative Members thought it was a good idea—in fact, they thought there was an extremely strong case—to build a new prison in north Wales. Is that still their view?

Does the Minister agree that there would be a lot less overcrowding in prisons were we to adopt the very sensible policy of sending back to secure detention in their countries of origin the 13% of our prison population who are foreign nationals?

I can assure my hon. Friend that we will do our absolute level best to improve the position.