500 temporary cells to expand prison estate

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500 temporary, single-occupancy cells are expected to expand the prison estate, as part of the government’s action to protect the public and NHS during the coronavirus pandemic

The prison estate is moving towards single-cell accommodation, as much as possible, to limit the spread of infection and the number of deaths.

This action marks the start of work at six priority jails over the coming weeks to increase space in prisons and help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The project is then expected to be expanded to additional prisons. This follows public health advice that prisons present a unique environment where rapid outbreaks of the virus could place a significant strain on local NHS services.

While this temporary accommodation remains within the existing, secure, prison estate and will be monitored by staff, as normal, only lower-risk category C and D prisoners will be held in the temporary units, following a careful risk assessment.

Prevent NHS being overwhelmed

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Lord Chancellor and justice secretary, Robert Buckland QC MP, said: “Our absolute priority is to protect the NHS and save lives, which is why we have taken unprecedented steps to stop the spread of coronavirus in our jails.

“Creating additional space in the existing estate, alongside measures to limit prisoner movement and releasing low-risk offenders, will help prevent our NHS being overwhelmed.”

The first wave of sites have been chosen because they have the highest number of shared cells, lack in-cell sanitation and house high numbers of vulnerable prisoners.

Installation of temporary accommodation will start this week at HMP North Sea Camp, with HMPs Littlehey, Hollesley Bay, Highpoint, Moorland, Lindholme and Humber to follow.

Further prisons could be chosen based on whether the extra accommodation is needed and if there is sufficient space.

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