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Tagged In:  Ministry of Justice

The prison population for England and Wales is set to rise over the next five years.

The recent Ministry of Justice document, Prison Population Projections 2017 to 2022, showed the prison population will remain stable between now and June 2019 but then increase by 1,600 places by March 2022.

Longer sentences

The Ministry of Justice points to a number of factors behind the increase but longer sentences are a significant element in the projected prison population rise.

A growth in the determinate sentenced population is expected due to recent trends in offender case mix, with more serious cases coming before the courts and resulting in longer custodial sentences. The wider marginal growth of the prison population to the summer of 2019 is down to the sentenced determinate population being offset by projected declines in the indeterminate population, following abolition of IPP sentences in 2012.

However, the number of remand prisoners and the number of prisoners recalled to prison are both set to rise.

Ageing prison population

Additionally, the prison population continues to age with more inmates aged over 50, 60 and 70.

As well as being driven by longer sentences, this increase is also down to a shift in the offence mix of prisoners, with a specific rise in sexual offending.

Planning, capacity, and resources

The document will help aid policy development, capacity planning and resource allocation within the criminal justice system and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, with the projections worked out using a model of flows of offenders into and out of prison.

The report states: “It is based on assumptions about future custodial convictions and incorporates the anticipated impacts of agreed policy and procedural initiatives. It does not, however, attempt to estimate the impact of any future Government policy that is yet to achieve Royal Assent, and therefore becomes less certain over time.”

Yet over the last quarter of a century the prison population has increased by around 40,000. In 1993 there were 44,246 prisoners, rising to 85,134 in 2016. This increase can be put down to the rise in the number of prisoners sentenced to immediate custody.

Further prison population changes expected

Further changes in the prison population are expected due to various policies, including some already in effect but not yet fully represented in the population, and those that will an impact in the longer term.

These include the impacts of: the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, which includes provisions for restricting the use of cautions, changes to the framework for the sentencing and release of dangerous sexual and violent offenders, and the a new test for the release of recalled determinate sentence prisoners; the Serious Crime Act 2015 which includes provisions for additional caseload and associated custodial sentences relating to new offences for controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship; and Sentencing Council guidelines on reduction of sentence for early guilty pleas.

Another factor will also be the current Prisoner Transfer Framework allowing the UK to deport and receive prisoners to and from other EU member states.

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