Overcrowding crisis: Wandsworth prison ‘caging men in squalor’ in cells meant for one, charity reveals

Wandsworth prisoners are being forced to share single cells as the scale of the overcrowding crisis was revealed today by a leading prison charity.

Details of the overwhelmed prison system obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform showed that three in four men’s jails are holding more people than they are designed for.

Wandsworth prison is the third most overcrowded at 170% capacity, it was designed to accommodate 943 prisoners but currently holds 1,606.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show the lack of cell space due to jails closing and a rise in prisoner numbers means prisons have been forced to cram more people into cells.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Caging men in squalor with nothing to do all day is never going to help them become law-abiding citizens on release.

“Far too many people are being sent into already overcrowded jails and the need to stem the flow is now urgent.

As previously reported, south west London has one of the worst records for needlessly holding people in custody who are acquitted or don’t go to prison.

The figures also revealed the extent to which prisoners were ‘doubled-up’ or ‘trebled-up’ in cells to make more room.

Doubling is most common in Wandsworth, already one of the most overcrowded prisons in the UK, where almost 1,100 men on average were made to share cells designed for one.

Almost 19,000 prisoners were doubled-up on a typical day last year, and around 800 were trebled-up.

In the worst case scenario this can mean two men sharing a 6x10ft one-person cell with an unscreened toilet at the end of the bunks.

Overcrowding is associated with increased risk of suicides, self-harm and violence behind bars claim the Howard League as it was revealed earlier this year that Wandsworth also has the country’s highest suicide rate.

Ms Crook said: “Government must get a grip on a prison system in crisis that is feeding the crime problem and creating more victims.”

Since January 2013 the prison population has risen by more than 600 but during the same period 12 prisons have either been closed or re-roled, causing the loss of 3,561places.

Picture courtesy of diamond geezer, with thanks

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