INMATES in North-East jails were handed 10,312 days – more than 28 years – of additional imprisonment for breaking prison rules last year.

The Howard League for Penal Reform said the “draconian punishments” were a counter-productive attempt to regain control of jails and routinely used.

The use of additional days was scrapped in Scotland ten years ago.

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But in England and Wales they have continued and almost 290,000 additional days of imprisonment were handed down last year, which the Howard League estimated cost taxpayers about £27m.

Deerbolt Young Offenders Institution, near Barnard Castle, led the way in the North-East last year with 3,327 additional days being imposed, although this was well down on 2015’s figure of 4,679.

Holme House, in Stockton, came next with 1,233 additional days, although this again was a substantial drop on the 2,205 days in 2015.

But at Durham prison the figure more than doubled year-on-year from 267 to 558 additional days and there was an increase too at high-security Frankland jail, from 237 to 491.

Where breaches of prison rules are deemed serious, independent adjudicators – district judges – are drafted in to hear cases and can impose a maximum of up to 42 additional days per breach to the custodial time left to serve.

Howard League chief executive Frances Crook said: “More people than ever before in prisons are losing their lives to suicide and violence and self-injury are at record levels.

“The adjudications system has become a monster making these problems worse.

“It is time to follow the example set in Scotland where scrapping additional days’ imprisonment has made prisons fairer and safer.

“There are more constructive ways to deal with misbehaviour than simply locking up people for longer, which puts more pressure on the system.”

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “The vast majority of offenders leave prison without serving a single additional day.

“But the public and our hardworking staff rightly expect that those prisoners who break the rules, making life more difficult for staff and other offenders or putting their safety at risk, should face the consequences.”