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Prison officers' union calls for Royal Inquiry to deal with overflowing crisis

PRISON officers’ union POA demanded a public inquiry to deal with Britain’s jail capacity crisis today.

General secretary Steve Gillan added that Labour should invest in its current prisons and only build new ones after a review of court sentencing.

The prison service says it has fewer than 80,000 safe and decent accommodation prison places in England and Wales.

The Ministry of Justice says the inmate population stands at more than 87,000, estimating it will rise to 96,200 by March 2025 and potentially as high as 114,800 by March 2028. 

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer has warned getting to grips with the problem will take time, so “it is impossible to say we will stop the early release of prisoners.”

Mr Gillan told the Morning Star: “Victims of crime must always come first. 

“Offenders need to be rehabilitated but more importantly, short-term measures of just releasing people need to be realistic.

“There is no point in releasing prisoners early from their sentence if there are no support mechanisms out there such as jobs, housing and probation support as they will just re-offend and be recalled to prison.

“The POA calls for an urgent debate on reform through a Royal Commission or any other inquiry that deals with long-term solutions.

“The Labour government, until there is a review of sentencing and other measures, should put a hold on building new prisons and invest that money into existing prisons.”

It comes as the Howard League for Penal Reform called for the automatic release of people on standard determinate sentences after serving 40 per cent of their term. 

The charity’s chief executive Andrea Coomber KC said: “There are many problems in prisons that ought to be addressed, but overcrowding is the most pressing, and this is where the new government’s immediate focus needs to be.

“But we must also break out of this cycle of fighting emergency after emergency.”

A briefing published today by the Howard League recommended extending the use of suspended sentences and introducing a presumption against short prison sentences.

It also called for changes in the use of recall and remand, to prevent people being held in prison unnecessarily.

In the medium and long term, it suggested a comprehensive review of sentencing and sanctions and revisiting the recommendations of 2007’s Corston report, which warned of the enormous costs of incarcerating women — to families, children and substitute care.

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