Prison population reaches new peak

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The Independent Online

The prison population in England and Wales reached a record high yesterday, the Government said. Ministry of Justice statistics confirmed the total reached 85,201.

Campaigners have already called for the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, to stop building new prisons and halt the rise in the number of inmates.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the "usable operational capacity" of the prison system was 87,698, but that an extra 400 places could be provided through Operation Safeguard, which uses cells at police stations.

In February Jack Straw, who was Justice Secretary, said he was halting an early release scheme under which more than 80,000 offenders were freed. No prisoners were eligible for the controversial End of Custody Licence scheme after 12 March and the last remaining ECL prisoners were released on 9 April.