The Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, Richard Garside, today said that Pentonville Prison in North London should be demolished, with affordable housing for Londoners built in its place.
His comments follow another grim report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, which found that prisoners were placed in filthy cells and that levels of violence had almost doubled in under two years.
'Pentonville prison should be demolished. Something fit for human habitation should be built in its place. A fitting legacy would be the construction of affordable social housing for Londoners.
'There are particular problems facing Pentonville prison. The lack of care and compassion for the plight of prisoners is shocking. But whatever the failings of individual members of staff at the prison, this grim institution is over 170 years old. It should be consigned to the past.
'Pentonville also stands as a symbol of much that is wrong with the prison system across the United Kingdom. Squeezed budgets and falling staffing levels have combined with record numbers of people being sent to prison. The result has been rising levels of suicide, self-harm and violence.
'We have the prison population we have because we criminalise far too many people, mostly for petty and minor infractions that would much better be resolved through educational, health and social welfare programmes.
'Rather than continuing to invest in failure, the government should be supporting policies and approaches that place wellbeing, rather than punishment, at the heart of responses to social problems.'