Foreign inmates blamed for prison overcrowding

With the Government considering freeing more offenders early to ease the pressure, Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, disclosed that 10,000 overseas nationals were locked up in England and Wales.

Their numbers have risen at seven times the rate for British citizens over the past five years, putting extra strain on a system already struggling to cope.

There are more than 160 different nationalities behind bars, with Jamaicans representing the largest group. There are also large numbers from Nigeria, Turkey, India, Pakistan and Ireland. Foreigners represent about one in eight of the prison population, which reached a record 77,774 last week.

Mr Clarke told the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that it was ''very close'' to reaching the maximum capacity for jails in England and Wales of 78,147. He added: ''Twelve to 13 per cent of the occupants of British prisons at the moment are foreign nationals. That is a very large number indeed.

''From 2000 to 2005, the number of British nationals in British prisons increased by 11 per cent while the number of foreign nationals increased by 75 per cent over that period. If the foreign nationals had increased at the same rate as the British we would have about 3,500 fewer prisoners than we do today.''

Mr Clarke admitted that ministers were considering extending the home detention curfew scheme, under which offenders are released early on electronic tags, to ease the pressure on the system.The Home Secretary also said the emergency use of police cells to hold prisoners was possible.

He warned it could take four to five years to overhaul the prison system and admitted he was struggling to win the support of probation officers for controversial plans to encourage private companies to run probation services.

* A high-powered committee to investigate the biometric technology underpinning identity cards is being set up by the Government. The moves follow claims of widespread mistakes in scans of faces, irises and fingerprints in trials of the technology.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee