HC Deb 06 April 1978 vol 947 cc626-7
15. Mr. Goodlad

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for reducing overcrowding in Her Majesty's prisons.

Dr. Summerskill

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State explained on 2nd March, overcrowding, particularly in local prisons, is a matter of continuing concern. I hope that some relief will be afforded by building schemes already in progress, which are expected to provide 4,700 extra places by 1981–82, but much will depend before then on the level of crime and the sentencing practice of the courts. Provision has also been made to start one new prison in 1981–82.

Mr. Goodlad

Does the Minister accept that the present chronic overcrowding in prisons is effectively frustrating the aims of the prison service, other than in regard to pure containment, and that the effect on young offenders is particularly serious? Does he further accept that, in addition to the financial solution to which he has referred and the sentencing, much greater attention must be given to the use of non-custodial sentences for those who have been convicted of crimes such as maintenance default and others referred to by the Wootton Committee?

Dr. Summerskill

It would seem that the House is generally agreed that non-custodial sentences should be encouraged. I am also glad to learn that the Opposition support greater public expenditure on prison establishments.

Mr. Christopher Price

How many people are in prison at the moment who ought really to be in hospital, particularly psychiatric hospitals? What is the Home Office doing about this quite scandalous situation, to which the courts and others have drawn attention?

Dr. Summerskill

I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a very great need for more secure accommodation for the mentally ill who commit criminal offences. Discussions are now going on between my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Mr. Stephen Ross

Does the Minister accept that one way to reduce quickly the overcrowding in some prisons in this country would be to settle the dispute in Parkhurst, Albany and Camp Hill prisons on the Isle of Wight? When is Parkhurst Prison, which dates back to about 1840, likely to be modernised?

Dr. Summerskill

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that every effort is being made to settle the dispute at Parkhurst, which can only be detrimental to both staff and prisoners. Parkhurst will be considered, along with the needs of all the other old prisons, for early expenditure.

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