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Durham among most overcrowded prisons in country
DURHAM Prison is one of the most overcrowded in the country, it has been revealed.
There were 559 inmates forced to share a cell designed for one person during the financial year 2012-13, the Howard League for Penal Reform has said.
The worst-affected prison in England and Wales was Wandsworth in London where, on a typical day, 835 prisoners were forced to share cells which contain an open toilet.
The same conditions existed for 255 at Holme House, near Stockton, 32 at Low Newton, near Durham and 162 at Northallerton, North Yorkshire.
Across the country almost 20,000 prisoners were kept in overcrowded cells, figures obtained by a charity have shown.
In the region, only Full Sutton near Yorks and Frankland at Durham were not overcrowded, according to the research.
A further 777 people nationally were made to sleep three to a cell, when the cells are designed to accommodate only two.
Frances Crook, Howard League chief executive, said: ''At last, we have the picture of the real state of overcrowding in our prisons. It's far worse than anyone imagined: one in four people behind bars are packed like sardines into cramped cells.
''It should come as little surprise that such crowded conditions leave staff hugely overstretched, especially as more are being laid off. This means there are little-to-no opportunities for prisoners to work, learn or take courses to turn them away from crime.
''Staff cuts and overcrowding mean that grown men spend all weekend and up to 22 hours a day during the week cooped up like battery chickens. No wonder violence and self-injury is rife.
''If the Ministry of Justice is serious about reducing reoffending it must tackle overcrowding now. Successive governments have peddled the lie that you can build your way out of a prisons overcrowding problem.''
Other overcrowded prisons were Altcourse, Doncaster, Birmingham, Pentonville, Preston, Manchester, Elmley and Nottingham.
Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said: “Let’s be clear what overcrowding in prison actually means. Typically it means having to share a cell rather than have one to yourself. Prisoners are treated humanely but prison is not somewhere that anyone should be comfortable about going back to.
“All prisons have safe population levels and have capacity to take those sent there by the courts. We are replacing older prisons with newer accommodation that is cheaper to run.
“I will continue to look for ways to make the prison system more efficient and to tackle our stubbornly high re-offending rates.”
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