Full Sutton ‘running out of cells’

HMP Full Sutton was operating at 94% of its capacity in July.
HMP Full Sutton was operating at 94% of its capacity in July.

Full Sutton Prison is running out of cells, with campaigners warning that the safety of staff and inmates is at risk as the prison population increases.

The latest Ministry of Justice figures show that the prison has capacity for 558 inmates.

In July, it was operating at 94% of its capacity, with room for just 34 more prisoners.

Campaigners say that the unchecked rise of the prison population is responsible for the huge increase in assaults on staff and other inmates, culminating in the Government taking over HMP Birmingham from its contractor, G4S, after a damning inspection report.

One of the Government’s first actions was to move hundreds of inmates to other jails, reducing the overcrowding.

The Prison Service measures its own capacity in terms of Certified Normal Accommodation – the number of prisoners it says it can accommodate in the “good, decent standard of accommodation that the service aspires to provide all prisoners”.

However, with the majority of prisons overcrowded across England and Wales, it also has a separate measure called Operational Capacity. This is the maximum number of prisoners the Prison Service says each institution can safely handle while maintaining control and security.

In some prisons, such as Full Sutton, inmates cannot be safely housed together in cells, so the Certified Normal Accommodation and the Operational Capacity are the same.

Prisons contain a number of one and two-person cells. In overcrowded prisons, more inmates will be put in cells than they were originally designed to hold.

Prison Reform Trust director, Peter Dawson, said: “Overcrowding isn’t simply a case of being forced to share a confined space for up to 23 hours a day where you must eat, sleep and go to the toilet.

“It directly undermines all the basics of a decent prison system, including work, safety and rehabilitation.

“No Government has succeeded in building its way out of overcrowding. So we need a fundamental rethink about who we send to prison and for how long.”

There has been a renewed focus on prison policy after the Government took control of HMP Birmingham.

A shocking inspection found inmates used alcohol, drugs and violence with impunity, while the corridors were covered with cockroaches, blood and vomit.

Chief inspector of prisons, Peter Clarke, said it was “some of the most disturbing evidence” inspectors have seen in any prison.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “All prisons in England and Wales are within their operational capacity which means they are safe for inmates.

“Nonetheless, reducing crowding is a central aim of our modernisation of the prison estate.

“That is why we have committed to delivering up to 10,000 new prison places across the country.”