A NORTH East jail is said to be among prisons told to make room for more offenders following cuts.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has said he is taking “sensible steps” to deal with a rise in prisoner numbers after it was reported that 34 full and overcrowded jails are being told to accommodate more inmates.
Labour said the news that 40 institutions - all but six already at full capacity or beyond - need to find room for extra inmates is the consequence of the Government’s decision to shut 17 other jails, and accused ministers of “incompetence”.
But Mr Grayling said he was simply using “spare capacity” to deal with a small increase - and was also recruiting up to 100 prison officers on short-term contracts - and would “make no apology” that more criminals were being put behind bars.
Documents have been seen which show the prisons in England and Wales had been told to raise their “operational capacity” in the next two months to accept 440 more inmates between them.
Durham is said to be one, along with Bedford, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln, Brixton, Pentonville and Wandsworth.
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: “David Cameron must accept that the decision to close down 17 prisons was wrong.
“Because of his ministers’ incompetence they’ve created an acute shortage of space.
“Things are so bad they’ve had to resort to holding prisoners in police cells and they’ve moved serious and violent prisoners into open jails.
“Their latest desperate measure is to stuff more and more prisoners into already dangerously overcrowded prison cells.
“But a quart into a pint pot won’t go.
“This type of environment will do nothing to rehabilitate prisoners or to reduce crime and is yet another example of the Government failure in this area.”
Mr Grayling hit back: “We have had a small increase in prison population in the last few months.
“And as a result, we’ve opened up some of our reserve capacity.
“To do this we are planning to take on a number of former prison officers - up to 100 - on short-term contracts.
“We’re also opening 2,000 additional adult male prison places over the next nine months as part of my commitment to ensure we go into the next election with more adult male places than we inherited in 2010.”