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New jails and extra accommodation for inmates are urgently needed to cope with the spiralling prison population, which is expected to reach 60,000 within nine months, the director general of the Prison Service said yesterday. Richard Tilt renewed his call for more money from the Treasury to deal with the looming crisis. His appeal follows the disclosure that the Government has effectively shelved pounds 2bn plans to step up basic security proposed by General Sir John Learmont following a break-out from Parkhurst top security jail last year.

The bulk of the money was to bring jails up to minimum security levels. However, Home Office officials believe this is too costly, and a leaked draft document suggests stalling the proposals.