Socialist Worker

Overcrowding in prisons is ‘far worse than anyone imagined’ says charity

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2369

One in four prisoners in England and Wales were stuck in overcrowded cells in the year up to April. That’s around 20,000 people. The Howard League for Penal Reform (HLPR) uncovered the figures. It said the situation was “far worse than anyone imagined”.

Around 19,140 prisoners on average were forced to share a cell designed for one person.


A further 777 prisoners were three to a cell in cells designed for two people. And many prisoners were stuck in their cells for up to 22 hours a day. The HLPR has said that overcrowding contributes to prisoner suicides. Official government statistics don’t make clear how many prisoners live in overcrowded cells.

The extent of overcrowding was only revealed after a Freedom of Information request by the HLPR. HMP Wandsworth in south London was the most overcrowded prison in England and Wales, according to the figures. 

Some 835 prisoners shared with another prisoner in cells designed for one person on a typical day. These cells contain an open toilet with no privacy.


Frances Cook of the HLPR said that people were being “packed like sardines into cramped cells”. Meanwhile the number of prison staff has dropped 17 percent over the last four years. Prisons minister Jeremy Wright isn’t worried. He said, “Prison is not somewhere that anyone should be comfortable about going back to.”

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