UK government to rent prison spaces abroad as overcrowding reaches breaking point

3 October 2023, 19:18 | Updated: 3 October 2023, 19:37

UK prisoners to be sent abroad says Justice Secretary as prison overcrowding reaches breaking point
UK prisoners to be sent abroad says Justice Secretary as prison overcrowding reaches breaking point. Picture: LBC / Alamy

By Danielle DeWolfe

The government is planning to rent prison spaces abroad in a bid to ease overcrowding in UK jails, the Justice Secretary has revealed

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Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Mr Chalk said the plans to send prisoners to foreign countries were still in their "early stages".

He added the new measures would “lock up the most dangerous offenders for longer where that is necessary to protect the public”.

It comes as Home Secretary Suella Braverman labelled human rights protections currently in place "criminal" during her keynote speech at the conference on Tuesday.

She added the government is set to bring forward legislation to stop registered sex offenders from changing their identities.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Mr Chalk said the plans to send prisoners to foreign countries were still in their "early stages".
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Mr Chalk said the plans to send prisoners to foreign countries were still in their "early stages". Picture: LBC / Alamy

The changes the government hopes to put in place where prisoners are concerned would require new laws to be introduced “when parliamentary time permits”.

No specific timeframe has yet been set out.

Chalk added the measures would be similar to those currently used by nations including Norway.

Approximately 650 prisoners convicted in Norway were sent to the Netherlands to serve their sentences between 2015 and 2018.

Read more: Home Secretary Suella Braverman dismisses Human Rights Act as the 'Criminal Rights Act'

Read more: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt says taxes are ‘too high’ in Britain - but can’t say when they might come down

Chalk did not confirm which countries the UK was looking to establish the rental scheme with.

However, the locations would be selected on the basis of nations whose prison systems met British standards.

Speaking from the Tory Party conference, Mr Chalk said: “I can tell you today that we also intend to look at the Norwegian example and explore renting overseas capacity.”

The government purchased the Bibby Stockholm to house immigrants which was docked off Portland, Dorset, UK.
The government purchased the Bibby Stockholm to house immigrants which was docked off Portland, Dorset, UK. Picture: LBC / Alamy

The party said the plans would “put public protection first and help provide additional capacity for our prison service in a safe and sustainable way”.

Mr Chalk said: “We are rolling out the largest prison expansion programme since the Victorian era.

“We have brought online over 5,000 more places – in brand new prisons like HMP Fosse Way, with more on the way. Modern, secure, decent prisons with rehabilitation at their core.

"And we’re expanding and refurbishing existing prisons and hiring thousands more prison officers.

Following the comments, the Howard League for Penal Reform, the world's oldest penal reform charity, called the move "a national embarrassment".

Andrea Coomber KC (Hon.), Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is a national embarrassment and one that should come to symbolise the misguidance and misdirection characterising prisons policy in England and Wales for decades.

The party said the plans would “put public protection first and help provide additional capacity for our prison service in a safe and sustainable way”.
The party said the plans would “put public protection first and help provide additional capacity for our prison service in a safe and sustainable way”. Picture: LBC / Alamy

“Governments of both colours have tried to punish and imprison their way out of answering society's hardest questions. In truth, the solutions to crime lie outside the criminal justice system – in housing, education, employment and healthcare – but too many politicians have chosen instead to waste finite resources and overcrowd prisons to breaking point.

“The Howard League has not been alone in raising the alarm. Voices from across the criminal justice system have become louder and louder, not least those of people living and working in prison.

"Now the political response to a prison system on its knees is not to ease pressure on that system, nor to invest in improvements at home, but instead to waste taxpayers’ money on renting prison cells abroad.”

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