§ Baroness Anelay of St Johns
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What was the prison population in the United Kingdom at 25 December 2002, 25 January:2003 and 25 February 2003; and how many of those persons were being held in police cells designated for the purpose; and [HL1898]
What was the total in the United Kingdom at 25 February; and how many of those were in police cells designated for the purpose; and [HL1899]
How many places were available in open prisons at 25 February; and how many prisoners were of a category judged to be suitable for placement in open prisons at that date; and [HL1900]
What are their contingency plans to provide places in secure accommodation for persons sentenced to a term of imprisonment when the number of places in prisons has been filled. [HL1901]
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
On 24 December 2002 (the nearest date to 25 December 2002 for which data are available)., the total prison population was 70,320. There were no prisoners being held in police cells under Operation Safeguard on that date.
On 24 January 2003 (the nearest date to 25 January 2003 for which data are available), the prison population was 70,505. There were no prisoners being held in police cells under Operation Safeguard on that date.
On 25 February 2003 the prison population was 72,144. There were no prisoners being held in police cells under Operation Safeguard on that date. The total useable operational capacity of the Prison Service estate was 73,556: this is the maximum number of prisoners that the estate could normally expect to hold without recourse to police cells. There is a possibility that police cells may be required in some parts of the country before useable operational capacity is reached.
On 25 February 2003 the total useable operational capacity of the open prison estate was 4,357. There were 887 vacancies in open prisons on that date. On 25 February 2003 there were 4,513 prisoners who can be reasonably trusted in open conditions. A significant number of these prisoners will not be placed in dedicated open prisons, the main reason being that they are more appropriately located in closed conditions, where their individual treatment, programme and or resettlement needs can be more effectively met. Some of these prisoners, such as fine defaulters, are serving short-term sentences whose length makes a move to open conditions impractical. Some may also need to be held in a closed prison while their specific healthcare needs are met.30WA
The Prison Service has population management procedures in place to monitor prison population levels. Should it be necessary, the Prison Service will activate Operation Safeguard so that police cells throughout the country can be used to hold those sentenced to a term of imprisonment for whom a Prison Service establishment place is not immediately available. The Prison Service last used police cells for this purpose on the night of 20 December 2002.
The information given above is for Prison Service establishments in England and Wales. As at 25 February 2003, the Northern Ireland Prison Service has certified accommodation for 1,385 prisoners. Their prison population on 24 December 2002 was 1,013. It was 1,091 on 24 January 2003 and 1,101 on 24 February 2003. The Northern Ireland Prison Service does not, and has not, used police cells and its estate does not contain any open prisons.
Information relating to Scotland is a matter for the Scottish Executive.