Updated: Friday, 17th January 2020 @ 10:25am

More than 600 prisoners forced to share one-man cells in Manchester's Strangeways in overcrowding blunder

More than 600 prisoners forced to share one-man cells in Manchester's Strangeways in overcrowding blunder

By Danielle Wainwright

More than 600 prisoners were forced to share one-cell rooms last year at HMP Manchester  – formerly known as Strangeways.

HMP Manchester, along with eight other jails including Pentonville, Preston and Durham, were found packing nearly 20,000 prisoners into cells designed for only one person, according to The Howard League for Penal Reform.

A further 777 people were made to sleep three to a cell, when the cells are designed to accommodate only two.

The Howard League found that the worst-affected prison in England and Wales was Wandsworth where some 835 prisoners were forced to share cells which had an open toilet.

Frances Crook, Howard League chief executive, said: "At last, we have the picture of the real state of overcrowding in our prisons. It's far worse than anyone imagined: one in four people behind bars are packed like sardines into cramped cells.

"It should come as little surprise that such crowded conditions leave staff hugely overstretched, especially as more are being laid off. This means there are little-to-no opportunities for prisoners to work, learn or take courses to turn them away from crime.

"Staff cuts and overcrowding mean that grown men spend all weekend and up to 22 hours a day during the week cooped up like battery chickens. No wonder violence and self-injury is rife.

"If the Ministry of Justice is serious about reducing reoffending it must tackle overcrowding now. Successive governments have peddled the lie that you can build your way out of a prisons overcrowding problem."

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright has hit back against Ms Crook’s comments, arguing that ‘prison is not somewhere that anyone should be comfortable about going back to’.

"Let's be clear what overcrowding in prison actually means - typically it means having to share a cell rather than have one to yourself,” he said.

"All prisons have safe population levels and have capacity to take those sent there by the courts.

"We are replacing older prisons with newer accommodation that is cheaper to run. I will continue to look for ways to make the prison system more efficient and to tackle our stubbornly high reoffending rates."

Strangeways has often come under fire for overcrowding with former Lord Justice Woolf finding 1,647 prisoners being held even though only 970 could be accommodated for in a 1991 report.

In 2002, The Howard League released findings which suggested nearly two-thirds of Strangeways prisoners were living in overcrowded conditions.

Picture courtesy of Vintage Lulu via Flickr, with thanks.

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