Tougher sentencing will put pressure on prisons

originally by: The Independent
published: 28th October 2011

The jail population in England and Wales could soar towards 95,000 within six years, Whitehall officials forecast yesterday as the Coalition signalled a toughening in its approach to criminal justice policy. In a defeat for Kenneth Clarke’s liberal instincts on sentencing, the Justice Secretary announced automatic jail terms for 16- and 17-year-olds found guilty of knife offences and American-style mandatory life sentences for offenders convicted of a second violent or sexual crime.

Just 24 hours earlier he had expressed grave reservations about both policies, but appeared to have been overruled by David Cameron.

After years of increases, the prison population had recently begun to stabilise – and Mr Clarke said last year he believed it could be cut by 3,000. But it will be boosted by up to 1,000 as looters involved in the summer’s riots serve tough sentences imposed by courts.

The effect on jails is already beginning to be seen, with the prison population rising to a record 87,670 this month.

And according to new projections by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the numbers behind bars could rise to a possible high of 94,800 in 2017, a total that would require the construction of several new jails. Mandatory prison sentences for knife crime committed by adults will also increase the pressure on the prison population.

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