Labour set to overrule local opposition to build more prisons as party slams Tories' 'mismanagement of jails'

8 June 2024, 22:40

Labour will relieve pressure on prisons by changing the planning process to allow more jails to be built, the party has said.
Labour will relieve pressure on prisons by changing the planning process to allow more jails to be built, the party has said. Picture: Alamy

By Chay Quinn

Labour will relieve pressure on prisons by changing the planning process to allow more jails to be built, the party has said.

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Sir Keir Starmer's party accused the Conservative government of inaction and mismanagement which has led the prison estate to be "bursting at the seams".

The plans suggest prisons will be designated as sites of national importance, placing the power to approve a planning decision in ministers' hands rather than local councillors.

Earlier in 2024, prison constables were asked by the Home Office to consider taking fewer suspects into custody due to overcrowding.

Read More: Police chiefs told to arrest fewer people to save space in overcrowded prisons

Read More: Inmates dug through prison wall with plastic cutlery in Shawshank Redemption-style attempted breakout, report finds

Shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood said unblocking the planning process would stop the "powder keg waiting to explode" behind bars.

The Tories had previously promised to deliver 20,000 new prison places, and 6,000 have been created so far. Labour said it would ensure the delivery of the remaining 14,000.

London, England, UK. 21st Apr, 2024. Shadow Secretary of State for Justice SHABANA MAHMOOD
London, England, UK. 21st Apr, 2024. Shadow Secretary of State for Justice SHABANA MAHMOOD. Picture: Alamy

Ms Mahmood said: "The crisis in our prisons is a powder keg waiting to explode. Worse still, we never had to get to this point.

"The dangerous overcrowding of our prisons was foreseeable and avoidable, but this Government has not had the will or courage to act.

"A Labour government will turn the page on 14 years of Conservative chaos and confront the difficult decisions that this Government has dodged.

"We will build the prison places they promised but never delivered and we will drive down reoffending. I am determined to fix the prisons crisis for the long term, not just push back disaster by another day, week or month."

The party is also proposing to bring together prison governors and local employers to create employment councils to drive down reoffending, link offenders to training and jobs, and reduce the burden on capacity in the long term.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: "The last Labour government let 80,000 criminals out early and failed to build the prisons they promised.

General view of the high security local prison, HMP Belmarsh, in Thamesmead , east London.
General view of the high security local prison, HMP Belmarsh, in Thamesmead , east London. Picture: Alamy

"Labour under Keir Starmer has continued to vote against more resources for our police and tougher sentences.

"Under the Conservatives, we are overseeing the largest expansion to the prison estate since the Victorian era, delivering 13,000 new prison places keeping criminals behind bars."

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