Justice select committee calls for prison population to be cut by a third so money can be spent on alternatives to custody instead

A committee of MPs has warned that plans to increase the number of prisons places in England and Wales to 100,000 is likely to prove a costly mistake.

The £4.2m programme involves building five new 1,500-place prisons, plus other new jails and housing blocks in the ground of existing prisons. However, a report published today by the justice select committee said the programme was preventing money being spent on alternatives to custody and called for the current prison population to be reduced by 27,500 to 54,100, with a significant reduction in the next five years.

Its said the prison building programme would prove to be a “costly mistake””.

At present there are 82,600 prisoners in jails in England and Wales and the government has embarked on the biggest prison building programme in western Europe to provide 10,000 new prison places to increase the overall capacity in jails in England and Wales to 96,000 by 2014.