Prison population hits new high


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The Independent Online

The prison population in England and Wales has increased by almost 200 in a week, taking it to a new all-time high of 87,945, figures showed today.

The total is 1,310 short of the usable operational capacity and 196 higher than last week's record of 87,749, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

The rise in the number of people behind bars is being fuelled by the summer's riots, but the Government has insisted there will be enough prison places for anyone jailed over the looting and violence.

The usable operational capacity is 89,255, but this has increased from just 88,039 on August 5, the day after Mark Duggan, 29, was shot dead by police, prompting protests in Tottenham, north London, which then led to the disturbances in English cities.

The figure is the official total number of prisoners that the jails in England and Wales can hold, taking into account control, security and the proper operation of the planned regime, less 2,000 places.

No places are currently activated under Operation Safeguard, which would see police cells used to hold prisoners, an MoJ spokesman said.

Contingency measures could involve bringing on new accommodation early, using extra places in the public and private estate, or reopening mothballed accommodation.

The riots will see prisons swell by up to 1,000 extra inmates over the next year, figures released last month showed.