Costs of prison overspill revealed

HOLDING inmates in police cells in Suffolk and Essex is costing more than three times as much as it would in prisons, it has emerged.Forces across the country have been asked to provide up to 500 extra places for prisoners by Thursday, with many jails running out of space.

HOLDING inmates in police cells in Suffolk and Essex is costing more than three times as much as it would in prisons, it has emerged.

Forces across the country have been asked to provide up to 500 extra places for prisoners by Thursday, with many jails running out of space. In East Anglia, some have already exceeded their capacity, while most others are nearly full.

The Home Office has said police will be expected to provide staff to act as makeshift prison officers on over-time rates, adding to the cost of the plan.

John Gummer, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, last night described the situation as a “gross expenditure of public money” and a “misuse of the police”.


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He also spoke of his concern about the possibility of dangerous inmates being sent to Hollesley Bay Open Unit, near Woodbridge, if there is no room for them elsewhere.

He said: “If you have people there who shouldn't be, absconding rates will go up and that will put even more pressure on the police.”

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Fellow Tory Bernard Jenkin, who represents Essex North, added: “I think it's absolutely absurd. The system is in a state of crisis.”

Places for 8-10 prisoners will be provided at a Suffolk police station, although the location is being kept secret, while Essex has said it could house 16 inmates at its Rayleigh Police Station.

In Suffolk, it is thought a sergeant will lead a team of around two or three members of police staff, possibly constables, in supervising the inmates at the stations.

Mike Holdsworth, chief inspector of operational planning at Suffolk police, stressed providing space for prisoners would not impact on the force's capabilities in fighting crime, with officers' normal jobs unaffected.

He said the force would also claim expenses for the cost of converting and supervising the cells.

“It's a considerable exercise and there are a lot of logistics involved in making sure the cells are ready,” he said.

“We are obviously going to reclaim that cost back.”

A spokeswoman for the Home Office confirmed the average cost of housing a prisoner in a police cell was £350 per prisoner per night, compared to just over £100 in a normal jail.

Hilary Banks, who is leading the move to use police cells for prisoners, codenamed Operation Safeguard, said: “The use of police cells is a short term measure until the accommodation available in prisons more accurately matches the number of prisoners.

"The police service has plans in place to house prisoners in police premises and 500 places will be made available to the prison service over the coming weeks. All associated costs will be recovered and Operation Safeguard will in no way affect the normal day to day service of police forces."

Blundeston - 464 / 465

Chelmsford - 575 / 584

Edmunds Hill - 371 / 353

Highpoint - 816 / 816

Hollesley Bay - 330 / 322

Norwich - 824 / 775

Warren Hill - 222 / 215

Wayland - 709 / 701

Source: HM Prison Service

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