‘Yes, prison is overcrowded but we’re doing it safely’

Prison.
Prison.

Bedford Prison has been ranked among the most overcrowded jails for men in the UK.

Figures released by The Howard League for Penal Reform reveal that the Victorian-built prison was designed to accommodate 322 inmates but was holding 498 criminals at the end of January.

Bedford Prison.

Bedford Prison.

The most overcrowded prison in the UK was found to be Leeds – designed for 669 but holding 1,218 prisoners at the start of the year.

Bedford Prison governor Ian Blakeman, who left the job last week to take up the top post at another bigger prison in Bicester, has previously admitted to the T&C that overcrowding is an issue but said that measures are in place to do it safely.

Just last week there were 492 inmates at Bedford’s Category B prison, but Mr Blakeman said it can hold up to 511 and they regularly have around 500 prisoners behind bars there.

He said: “There are safeguards in place to make sure we do it safely. The cells have to have certain conditions, they have to be of a certain size.

“In an ideal world we wouldn’t have a prison population that is rising but I am satisfied we are doing it safely here. We are doing it the best we can.”

Between the end of January 2013 and the end of January 2015, the prison population rose nationally from 83,062 to 83,680.

During the same period 12 prisons were either closed or re-rolled and the number of places was cut from 78,935 to 75,374.