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Prisons can cope, says minister

Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt has stated that the prisons can cope with the short term rise in numbers, and there will be no long term effects on the system in England and Wales.

With so many rioters having being arrested but not granted bail - at the request of the police – the number of inmates reached a record level last Friday, with 87,000 behind bars. Prison chiefs have set up contingency plans in case they run out of space.

Yet Blunt told the BBC: “We are completely confident that the prison system and justice system are going to be able to cope with what the police are producing for us. This is an exceptional event. There will be a one-off increase in prison numbers as people serve their sentences.

“What we have to do is make sure there are prison places for those sent to prison by the courts and we will continue to do that regardless of how many people are sent to prison.”

New plans will make use of community-based sentences for some offenders. From 2012, unemployed offenders doing community payback will be expected to work full-time four days a week, instead of spread out over a series of months. The fifth day will be spent looking for a job. The punishment will also be delivered more immediately after the sentence is decided.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of probation union Napo, said: “Previous attempts to have offenders doing payback all week have failed because they would have lost their Jobseeker's Allowance as they would have been unavailable to seek work.

“This proposal gets round that problem; however, the scheme will only be viable if it is properly resourced, if it doesn't put council workers out of work and that the offenders are fit to carry out the tasks.”

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