Halve prison population to 45,000, ex-Cabinet ministers urge
Prisoner numbers in England and Wales should be slashed to 45,000, an ex-deputy prime minister and two former home secretaries have declared.
Nick Clegg, Ken Clarke and Jacqui Smith said prisons had become unacceptably dangerous and that recent unrest in a Birmingham jail should serve as a “wake-up call”.
The cross-party trio lamented that the prison population had soared to more than 85,000 since 1993, when then Home Secretary Michael Howard asserted that “prison works”, and that half those released re-offend within a year.
Liberal Democrat former deputy prime minister Mr Clegg, Conservative Mr Clarke and Labour's Ms Smith made the comments in a letter to the Times.
Last week riot teams were called in to restore order in all four wings of HMP Birmingham after more than 12 hours of violent unrest, and which was later described as the worst for nearly 30 years.
Assaults in prison have soared by 31% in the past year while one prisoner takes their own life every three days, the trio wrote.
They added: "We believe that an escalating prison population has gone well beyond what is safe or sustainable.
"To restore order, security and purpose to our jails, ministers should now make it their policy to reduce prison numbers.
"If the tide is not turned soon, the prisons crisis will do untold damage to wider society."
And they noted: "The system is not serving victims of crime or properly protecting our communities either.”
Justice Secretary Liz Truss recently announced a boost in prison officers of more than 2,000, and said violence in prisons "will not be tolerated".