The crisis in prisons

Think tank: Institute for Government

Author(s): Cassia Rowland

July 3, 2024

This report from UK think tank the Institute for Government will look at how to start fixing the problems at the heart of the criminal justice system.

Prisons are in a profound state of crisis. The Prison Governors’ Association warned last week that prisons in England and Wales are just days away from running out of cells. Put simply, prisons are in real danger of having no space for new inmates, with obvious risks to the public.

The Sunak government implemented several emergency measures to ease the crisis. Some prisoners have been released up to 10 weeks early, court hearings delayed and police cells used as overflow capacity.

But it is clear these are insufficient and that the next government – if the polls are correct, a Starmer-led Labour government – will need to act immediately to begin to fix the problem. This short paper looks at how the UK criminal justice system got into this situation, and how it can find a way out of it.