This morning’s Western Mail reveals that Wales’ overcrowded prisons are down to their last 84 places:
Usk prison is full to its 256-inmate capacity, and the nearby open prison at Prescoed holds 170 prisoner, just short of its capacity of 178.
The situation has eased slightly at the privately-run Parc prison near Bridgend, where extra cells have been created. But even here 1,155 of the 1,200 spaces are occupied.
But in Wales’ Victorian-era prisons thing are worse: Cardiff has 812 prisoners on its 824-capacity site. In Swansea, where the maximum figure is 402, there are 383 inmates.
That leaves just 84 free spaces in Wales’ 2,860-capacity prison estate. Many prisons on the English border, which house Welsh prisoners, are near-full too, and Bristol is actually at the over-capacity mark.
The crisis underlines the case for a new Welsh prison but also for suitable secure accomodation within Wales for women and juveniles. However, it also highlights the need for a new approach to sentencing, reserving prison only for the worst offenders and seeking community sentencing for others.