HC Deb 31 March 1994 vol 240 cc938-9W
Mr. Win Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about capacity limits for prison accommodation.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from A. J. Butler to Mr. Win Griffiths, dated 31 March 1994:

The Home Secretary has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about capacity limits for prison accommodation.

All accommodation used for inmates is certified to meet the requirements of section 14 of The Prison Act 1952 and of Rule 23 of the Prison Rules 1964. An officer of the Secretary of State is required, inter alia, to certify that each unit of accommodation is adequate for health in respect of its size, lighting, heating, ventilation and fittings, and that prisoners are able to communicate at any time with a prison officer. This duty is undertaken by the Prison Service's 15 Area Managers for establishments in their own areas.

Each unit of accommodation (cell, double cell, cubicle or room) is assessed for the number of prisoners that can be accommodated in conditions satisfactory for both health and supervision. This number is the certified normal accommodation (CNA) of the unit and represents its uncrowded capacity. The CNA of an establishment is the sum of the CNA figures for all units of accommodation which are not set apart for special purposes. This number represents the uncrowded capacity of the establishment.

Each establishment also has an operational capacity, which is determined by the Area Manager. This takes account of any authorised overcrowding, staffing and other operational constraints. In many establishments CNA and operational capacity are the same. In the majority of local prisons, remand centres and some older training prisons, a certain degree of overcrowding has been authorised, so that operational capacity can be higher than CNA. In some circumstances, where specialist use is being made of accommodation, operational capacity can be lower than CNA.