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Prisons: Overcrowding

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN HL484, tabled on 15 June 2015

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Statement by Lord Faulks on 11 June (HLWS22), when and how it became apparent that some prisons had been misinterpreting overcrowding figures between 2008 and 2015.

Answered on

29 June 2015

Further to my WMS of 11 June the errors in crowding figures began in 2008 – 2009, under the then Lord Chancellor Jack Straw.

The following is a list of prisons whose previously published crowding figures required correction in respect of at least one monthly figure during the period 2008-09 to 2013-14 as a result of misinterpretation.

Aylesbury

Blundeston

Brinsford

Bristol

Brixton

Bullwood Hall

Bure

Channings Wood

Chelmsford

Coldingley

Dorchester

Dovegate

Foston Hall

Full Sutton

Garth

Highpoint

Holloway

Leicester

Lewes

Lindholme

Littlehey

New Hall

Northumberland

Parc

Parkhurst (part of Isle of Wight)

Peterborough

Portland

Reading

Risley

Rye Hill

Shrewsbury

Swinfen Hall

Thameside

Wandsworth

Wayland

Wellingborough

Wetherby

Whatton

Wormwood Scrubs

The National Offender Management Service has taken action to ensure that future figures will be subject to more rigorous quality assurance. This includes strengthening the monitoring guidance for establishments to address common errors of interpretation, and adding further automatic checks to the management information system to pick up anomalies between prisoner population, cell capacity and reported crowding. NOMS will also issue an instruction to Governors to make sure that staff are clear about the definition of crowding and their responsibilities to quality-assure the data they submit.

The errors came to light as a result of an internal check of the crowding returns in addition to the processes already in place for validating data ahead of the end-of-year publication of outturns in the NOMS Annual Report.

Decisions on the future size of the prison estate reflect the current and projected prison population. Therefore previously understated levels of crowding have not informed any capacity-based decisions made by the Ministry of Justice.