UK opposition warns over 1,500 criminals could avoid jail due to lack of cells

UK opposition warns over 1,500 criminals could avoid jail due to lack of cells

Number of prisoners will rise to 89,100 by this November, but there will only be 87,573 operational prison places, according to projections

By Burak Bir

LONDON (AA) - Britain's main opposition Labour Party has warned that more than 1,500 criminals could dodge jail this year due to a lack of prison cells.

Research by the UK's Labour Party revealed that prisons are nearing capacity, as the latest figures showed that there are only 971 prison spaces left.

Citing the government's projections, it said that the number of prisoners will rise to 89,100 by this November, but there will only be 87,573 operational prison places, leaving a shortage of 1,527 places.

"There have already been high profile cases where dangerous criminals have avoided prison due to prison overcrowding despite committing horrific crimes," according to the research.

Accusing the government of “dither and delay," the Labour party reminded that former Justice Secretary Dominic Raab wrote to the Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, suggesting that judges take prison overcrowding into account when passing sentences or deciding whether to remand people in custody.

Also touching on riot, violence and drugs rates in the prisons, it said that the number of drugs and drug manufacturing equipment found in jails have sharply risen by 325% and 625%, respectively, since 2010.

The research also pointed to statistics that show that there has also been a 153% rise in assaults on prison staff.

Steve Reed, Labour’s Shadow justice secretary, said that prisons in the country are "turning criminals away," because the government "failed to build the cells they promised."

"The situation has become so chaotic that the Conservative Government has instructed judges not to lock up dangerous criminals, leaving them to roam the streets and seek out new victims," Reed said.

"To make matters worse, criminals who do end up in jail have been allowed to run riot with violence and drug abuse spiraling out of control, driving up reoffending rates," he added.

Reed vowed to deliver necessary prison places to prevent crime, punish criminals and protect people.

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