Ken Clarke to announce policy shift on prisons with greater emphasis on community sentences

Future opportunities in prison building are expected to be drastically curtailed today as justice secretary Ken Clarke announces cuts to the £4bn prisons budget.

His announcement will make a sharply reduced jail building programme increasingly likely after years of expansion and development.

The move, as well as going some way to find the 25% spending cuts ministers have been tasked with, will mark a policy shift away from inmate expansion – a major win for the Liberal Democrats who pledged to do away with prison building completely.

The result of fewer offenders being sent to prison will be that more will be given community sentences instead.

The Financial Times reported today that private contractors expect Clarke to cancel most of the five new prisons planned by the previous Labour government.

He is looking to cut about £2bn from the £8.7bn ministry of justice budget, with the £4bn spent on prisons and the £2bn legal aid bill as his main targets.