Ministry of Justice must tackle prison overcrowding, say campaigners

The new Ministry of Justice launched by the government today must resolve the prison overcrowding crisis “as a matter of priority,” campaigners said.

Probation union Napo said the Ministry would have to consider either releasing non-violent prisoners on temporary license or ensuring that the courts send less people to prison.

The new Ministry will be responsible for criminal law and sentencing, reducing reoffending and prisons and probation, while the slimmed-down Home Office will keep responsibility for antisocial behaviour, crime, counter terrorism, policing and immigration and asylum.

To coincide with the Ministry’s launch today, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London published a report showing overcrowding was also affecting community sentence caseloads as well as prisons.

It also found that nearly two-thirds of offenders on community sentences had literacy levels below that expected of an 11-year-old, while nearly half had mental health problems.

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said today that the Ministry needed to pilot a “significant and sustained reduction” in the use of custody and the development of effective community sentences.

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