Jails are set to run out of space in two weeks with prisoners set be housed in police cells instead
- Prisoners will be housed in police cells in the North West and West Midlands
- First time in 15 years that ministers have had to bring in the emergency measures
- Read more: Crackdown on affairs between prison guards and criminal lovers
Jails in parts of the country are expected to run out of space within two weeks, it emerged yesterday.
Prisoners will be housed in police cells instead of prisons in the North West and West Midlands, after the Ministry of Justice gave forces a fortnight’s notice to make preparations.
It is the first time in 15 years that ministers have had to bring in the emergency measures, known as Operation Safeguard, with the initial phase understood to involve ‘significantly less than 200’ cells.
A strike by criminal barristers earlier this year, along with the impact of Covid, has pushed the prison population to more than 82,000, with many remand prisoners awaiting trial.
HMP Birmingham in Winson Green – one of the potential prisons that could be impacted in the West Midlands after the Ministry of Justice gave forces a fortnight’s notice to make preparations for prisoners to be housed in police cells
Operation Safeguard was triggered in November but this is the first time forces have been asked to make arrangements.
An MoJ spokesman said: ‘We have given notice to the National Police Chiefs Council to make available cells in police custody suites in the North of England and West Midlands as planned under Operation Safeguard.
‘This will help ensure we have enough spaces to manage the short-term pressure on prison places – driven in part by the impact of the barristers’ strike and Covid pandemic.
‘We are building 20,000 extra prison places and our newest prison is set to open in the spring.’
Operation Safeguard was last deployed under the former Labour government from 2006 until 2008, with the use of up to 500 police cells.
Criminal defence barristers outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London last year supporting strike action over Government set fees for legal aid advocacy work
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