Prison population at record high

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The prison population in England and Wales reached a record high today.

The total number of prisoners hit 85,931, 353 more than the previous record of 85,578 set last month and just over 2,100 short of the usable operational capacity of 88,049, Ministry of Justice figures showed.

The Government has said there will be enough jail places for anyone sentenced to custody as a result of the violence and looting that have swept across England's cities over the past week.

By lunchtime yesterday, more than 530 people had been brought before the courts charged over the four nights of rioting, excluding those in Manchester. Most of them were remanded in custody.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: "We will always ensure there are sufficient prison places for offenders sentenced to custody by courts.

"There is currently a substantial gap between our available capacity and the actual population at this point.

"New accommodation continues to become available and in the next 12 months 2,500 new places will become operational."