By Harriet Ernstsons Monday 02 September 2013 Updated: 03/09 08:26
MORE than 300 prisoners a day have been sharing overcrowded cells at HMP Hewell, new figures have revealed.
A report released by the Howard League for Penal Reform today (Monday) shows an average of 304 prisoners shared cells designed for one person each day during the financial year 2012/13.
Across England and Wales, around 19,140 were in the same position with the worst affected prison being Wandsworth where a total of 835 were sharing cells designed for one person.
Chief executive Frances Cook said: "At last, we have the picture of the real state of overcrowding in our prisons. It’s far worse than anyone imagined, one in four people behind bars are packed like sardines into cramped cells.
"It should come as little surprise that such crowded conditions leave staff hugely overstretched, especially as more are being laid off. This means there are little to no opportunities for prisoners to work, learn or take courses to turn them away from crime.
"Staff cuts and overcrowding mean that grown men spend all weekend and up to 22 hours a day during the week cooped up like battery chickens – no wonder violence and self-injury is rife."
She added if the Ministry of Justice was serious about reducing reoffending it should tackle overcrowding immediately.
"We can have the prisons that taxpayers deserve – ones that turn lives around rather than coop people up and make them more dangerous – but only if numbers are seriously reduced."
Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said: "Let's be clear what overcrowding in prison actually means - typically it means having to share a cell rather than have one to yourself. Prisoners are treated humanely but prison is not somewhere that anyone should be comfortable about going back to.
"All prisons have safe population levels and have capacity to take those sent there by the courts. We are replacing older prisons with newer accommodation that is cheaper to run. I will continue to look for ways to make the prison system more efficient and to tackle our stubbornly high reoffending rates."
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