Swansea prisoners sharing one-man cells as overcrowding rises
HUNDREDS of inmates at Swansea Prison are sharing cells which were designed to hold one.
The figures make up a nationwide picture which shows almost 20,000 prisoners were kept in overcrowded cells last year.
They were obtained through a Freedom of Information request submitted by charity the Howard League for Penal Reform, which says they figures illustrate the true scale of prison overcrowding in England and Wales is greater than ministers have suggested.
The figures show that, during the financial year 2012-13, about 19,140 prisoners on average were forced to share a cell designed for one person.
And in Swansea 356 prisoners shared a cell designed for one, and 21 shared overcrowded cells designed for two.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "At last, we have the picture of the real state of overcrowding in our prisons. It's far worse than anyone imagined: one in four people behind bars are packed like sardines into cramped cells.
"It should come as little surprise that such crowded conditions leave staff hugely overstretched, especially as more are being laid off. This means there are little to no opportunities for prisoners to work, learn or take courses to turn them away from crime.
"Staff cuts and overcrowding mean that grown men spend all weekend and up to 22 hours a day during the week cooped up like battery chickens — no wonder violence and self-injury is rife.
"If the Ministry of Justice is serious about reducing re-offending it must tackle overcrowding now. Successive governments have peddled the lie that you can build your way out of a prisons overcrowding problem."
Swansea prison is a Category B facility, which holds adult men and young offenders. The adults are either remanded into custody from the courts, awaiting trial, or sentencing, or are convicted prisoners serving less than two years.
Two years ago, Swansea Prison earned praise in a report by the Independent Monitoring Board, which is made up of members of the public.
The report said the average length of stay for around two-thirds of the prison population was less than 12 weeks.
Most offences committed by prisoners were drug-related, 37 per cent, followed by assault and "refusal to comply" both 14 per cent.