'One in four' prisoners in overcrowded cells

Close to a quarter of all prisoners in England and Wales were kept in overcrowded cells in the year to April, a prison reform charity has said. The Howard League for Penal Reform said figures showed about 19,140 inmates on average were made to share a cell designed for one person. It said overcrowding was "far worse than anyone imagined". The prisons minister said: "Prison is not somewhere that anyone should be comfortable about going back to." Figures published by the Ministry of Justice show that jails held an average of just over 85,000 prisoners between April 2012 and March this year. But the Howard League said those statistics did not state how many cells were holding more prisoners than they were designed to, and the figures it obtained via a Freedom of Information request revealed the full extent of overcrowding. The worst-affected prison in England and Wales was said to be HMP Wandsworth, where on a typical day 835 prisoners shared cells designed for one person, which the charity also pointed out contained an open toilet.Other prisons which held several inmates in a single cell included HMP Doncaster, where 729 prisoners were affected, and Birmingham where 670 shared.