How overcrowded are prisons in England and Wales?


Prison Cell Darksource: Full Fact
published: 18 June 2014

As the Chief Inspector of prisons criticises the current lack of resources in the Prison Service, we take a look at the numbers behind the story.

“We do not have a prison overcrowding crisis. Today’s prison population is 85,359, against a total useable operational capacity of 86,421, which means we have more than 1,000 spare places across the prison estate.

“Prison overcrowding is lower under this Government than it was in the last four years of the previous Labour Government”

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary, 16 June 2014

Over the weekend the BBC learned that already overcrowded prisons across England and Wales are being asked to take on more prisoners and raise their operating capacity.

This prompted the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, to lament the “political and policy failure” over resources for the Prison Service, pointing out that “the demands on the system now completely outstrip the resources to meet them”.

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