House of Commons Library

The prison estate

Published Wednesday, December 12, 2018

This briefing describes the prison estate in England and Wales. It discusses conditions in the estate and the Government's 'Prison Estate Transformation Programme'.

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The prison estate in England and Wales contains 118 prisons holding people who have been sentenced or are on remand awaiting trial for a range of crimes.

The prison estate has a mixture of publicly and privately-run institutions some of which are newly built, while others date back to the Victorian era.

There has been growing concern that the prison estate is unfit for purpose. The estate includes many dilapidated and overcrowded prisons.

In his 2017/18 annual report, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, said that the inspectorate had “documented some of the most disturbing prison conditions we have ever seen – conditions which have no place in an advanced nation in the 21st century”.

The Government is running a ‘Prison Estate Transformation Programme’ with the aim of building 10,000 new prison places, investing in repairs and renovations and reorganising the functions of individual prisons.

Many interest groups have been critical of the Government’s approach, arguing that it does not go far enough to improve conditions and that projected rises in the prison population will continue to put pressure on the system.

Other Library briefing papers about prisons and prisoners


Commons Briefing papers SN05646

Author: Jennifer Brown

Topic: Prisons

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