The government has been accused of creating a “Gulag Britain” after Home Office figures showed the prison population could reach more than 100,000 within seven years.
Its latest projections, published yesterday, showed that the number of prisoners could reach 106,550 by 2013, compared with the current population of a record 78,000. Almost 4,500 women and 11,500 young men and boys aged under 21 are currently behind bars.
Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, predicted that prison overcrowding would put staff and prisoners at risk of violence and that there would be more deaths in custody.
She said the government was creating a “Gulag Britain” and added: “The government has abandoned restraint and has announced its intention to build its way into a penal crisis of its own making.
“If it does not try to reverse the trend of ever-increasing use of custody it will have to divert precious resources from schools and hospitals that can help to reduce crime into building super-prisons across the country.”
The Home Office projections were based on assumptions about future sentencing trends and the implications of policy initiatives.
The total prison population increased from 51,080 in June 1995 to 76,190 in June 2005, according to Home Office figures.
And around two-thirds of people released from prison are re-convicted within two years.
The projections followed home secretary John Reid’s announcement of plans to build 8,000 more prison places by 2010.