Our submission to the House of Commons Justice Committee inquiry into the prison population in 2022 has been published on the Committee's website.
Submitted in partnership with the analytical services organisation, Justice Episteme, our submission offers an analysis of the historical trajectory of the custodial population in England and Wales from 2003, and a projection for the period to 2022 and beyond.
We estimate that, if there are no changes to current policy, the prison population will peak at 90,000 in around 2020.
We also argue that that the current and projected levels of the custodial population are unsustainable. The prison estate is poorly funded – and that is unlikely to change – and prison environments are becoming increasingly unsafe for prisoners and staff.
A systematic approach is needed, identifying short term measures and longer term initiatives. This needs to be a whole system approach, which considers the prison system as part of the broader framework of criminal justice and other agencies whose work and outcomes can have an impact on its size.
Speaking about our submission, our Director, Richard Garside, said:
I very much hope that the Committee does not fall into a fatalism of assuming that the only way is up when it comes to the prison population.
Many public figures, including former Justice Secretaries, former Home Secretaries, and former Prison Inspectors, have called for the prison population to be reduced.
Recent reports from the prisons inspectorate point to a alarming decline in prison regimes; something that is really harmful for prisoners and prison staff alike.
Any plans for the future prison estate must have downsizing at its heart.