Jails ‘Too Full To Help Inmates’

Prison overcrowding is jeopardising efforts to rehabilitate violent and sex offenders, the Chief Inspector of Prisons in England and Wales will warn. Anne Owers’ annual report is expected to say there is not enough space to find the “right” jails to rehabilitate those serving indeterminate sentences.

The 2,000 offenders serving such terms will be released only when they are no longer deemed a risk to the public.

Prisons are currently “full to bursting point”, Tony Blair has conceded.

The prime minister said 20,000 new prison places had been created and there would be a further 8,000 added to that total soon.

There are nearly 80,000 prisoners in England and Wales, with some inmates held in police stations and court cells to ease overcrowding.

Home Secretary John Reid came under fire last week over a letter he wrote to judges and magistrates, asking them to imprison only the most dangerous of offenders.

He denied encouraging softer sentences for criminals to ease prison overcrowding, but said he was merely re-stating existing guidelines. Serious offenders should still be locked up, he said.

But Ms Owers is expected to express concern about the impact that overcrowding is having on the growing number of offenders on indeterminate sentences.

She said those prisoners presented a “management problem” because there wasn’t enough space to find the “right” prisons for them, where their offending behaviour could be tackled.

Ms Owers is also concerned that more than 1,000 foreign national prisoners are being held beyond their sentence, while they await deportation.

The Home Office has said it is considering transferring some prisoners to RAF Coltishall in Norfolk.

A decision is expected next week, but local MP Norman Lamb and some residents believe the plan would have a severe impact on the area.