Wheatley raises stakes on funding

Jails chief Phil Wheatley is threatening a revolt against the government’s plan to increase the prison population.

Wheatley, director-general of the Prison Service, said last week he would refuse to run the extra 8,000 places pledged by the home secretary in July unless the Treasury found the money to fund them.

He told a conference on the Zahid Mubarek Inquiry: “I can only promise to run prison places that I can run decently. It is crucial that good resourcing is given to prison governors so they can manage their establishments properly.”

Wheatley was speaking as it emerged that the Treasury had objected to funding the 8,000 places. At the conference, organised by the family of Zahid Mubarek, who was beaten to death by his racist cellmate at Feltham Young Offender Institution in 2000, Wheatley said the prison estate – currently holding a record 80,000 prisoners – was at “absolute maximum capacity”.

Wheatley warned that Zahid’s murder had occurred when Feltham was under-resourced and “overwhelmed” by prisoners.

Dexter Dias, who represented the  Mubarek family during the public inquiry into Zahid’s death and who was also speaking at the conference, argued against the expansion of the prison estate.

“Many children and young people are being held behind bars in conditions that are a disgrace. It is no sensible solution at all to build more prisons if regimes are as impoverished as they are now,” he said.

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