Letter: Overcrowding leads to riots

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The Independent Online
In his perceprive article `Too lax and too harsh' (8 January), Nick Cohen points out that, before the recent riots at Everthorpe prison, the jail had been required to take a growing number of more difficult prisoners.

This has increasingly been the experience of low security prisons since the Government abandoned its pre-1993 policy of seeking to limit prison sentences to serious cases The resulting sharp rise in the prison population contributed to a serious riot in September 1993 at another Category C prison, Wymott. Because of the pressure of numbers in the North West region, a large number or prisoners had been transferred to Wymott in the three weeks before the riot, many of whom posed a control risk in a prisonof Wymott's type.

The rising prison population has also affected maximum security prisons. In January 1994 the annual report of Whitemoor's Board of Visitors complained that the pressure on prison accommodation had made it harder for Whitemoor to transfer prisoners elsewhere `for reasons of security, control or positive sentence planning'.

The Home Secretary's argument that recent serious incidents in prisons are unconnected with prison overcrowding is therefore simplistic and untenable. The knock-on effects of an excessive number of prisoners have substantially increased control and security problems even in prisons which are not themselves overcrowded.

Paul Cavadino Chair, Penal Affairs Consortium

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