Great Britain on course for massive prison expansion

Monday, 29 June 2020

Great Britain is on course for a massive expansion in prison capacity, according to a new assessment from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, out today.

In England and Wales, nearly 22,000 additional prison places are being planned in the coming years, while in Scotland an additional 3,600 prison places are under development.

The governments in London and Edinburgh have already taken, or are planning to take, approximately 10,500 of old prison place capacity out of circulation. But even when this is taken into account, this still means additional prison capacity of some 15,000 is planned in the coming years. Previous experience also suggests that prisons slated for closure often stay open.

The analysis is contained in the latest edition of UK Justice Policy Review, from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. It comes as the government in London reaffirms its plans to spend £2.5 billion building four new prisons in England.

Last year, the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland told parliament that the new prisons model being developed at one site, in Wellingborough, was intended to take the prisons estate "into the 22nd century". 

Speaking today, Richard Garside, the director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and one of the report authors, said:

While the governments in London and Edinburgh pay lip-service to the notion that a smaller prison population is desirable, all their actions suggest a commitment to further growth and a long-term commitment to unnecessary incarceration.

Rather than attempting to build their way out of the current prisons crisis, they would do better to rethink some of their basic assumptions, developing a long-term strategy to prevent unnecessary criminalisation and tackle unnecessary imprisonment.