§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Why pursuant to the reply of Earl Ferrers (HL Deb., 13th December, col. WA 97–98) on prison accommodation, Brixton prison is experiencing 19 per cent. overcrowding and Pentonville 17 per cent. while Belmarsh is 12 per cent. below its Certified Normal Accommodation and Wandsworth 4 per cent.; and what steps are being taken to equalise overcrowding in London prisons.
Responsibility for the subject of this Question has been delegated to the Prison Service and its Director General, Mr. Derek Lewis. The Director General has therefore arranged for a response to the Question and the letter is given below.16WA
Letter to Lord Harris of Greenwich from the Director General of the Prison Service, Mr. Derek Lewis, dated January 1994:
Lord Ferrers has asked me to reply to your recent Question about overcrowding in London prisons.
Since the beginning of the century the London prison estate has been dominated by four large prisons for men at Brixton, Pentonville, Wandsworth and Wormwood Scrubs. Each of these took prisoners according to their legal status or sentence length. This functional approach meant prisoners were regularly shuttled between London prisons, which was disliked by prisoners, their families and legal representatives.
The addition of two new prisons in 1991/92, at Belmarsh at Woolwich and High Down at Banstead, enabled us to move from a functional to a geographical division of work. Each of the six local prisons has its own Crown Court centre and committing magistrates' courts. Within the geographical framework some specialist roles have been left in place. The take-up of these specialist places together with the continuing redevelopment of the Victorian estate results in different occupancy levels. No prison is close to its operational capacity but, if population pressures threatened to increase disproportionately the population of any one prison, remedial action would be taken.