Lazy eyes listen
According to Justice Secretary Alex Chalk, who delivered a speech on the subject at a Conservative Party conference, the UK Ministry of Justice is in talks with correctional facilities around Europe to rent out space in order to address chronic overcrowding in its jails.
According to The Times, the British government was inspired by how countries such as Norway and Belgium had previously hired cells abroad and is now attempting to modify the law to allow criminals condemned in England and Wales to spend their terms overseas.
Chalk added that the UK is already in exploratory talks with potential European partners, and that Estonia is one of the first countries on the list of potential contenders, which he has personally visited.
“This government is doing more than any other since the Victorian era to expand prison capacity,” Chalk said at the conference. “Alongside our extra 20,000 prison places programme, refurbishment of old prisons, and rapid deployment cells, renting prison places in other countries will ensure that we always have the space to keep the public safe from the most dangerous offenders.”
The Justice Ministry’s initiative comes at a time when the UK is coping with dwindling prison capacity. According to The Times, there were just 768 available places in jails across England and Wales as of last week.
In response to the plan, representatives of the Labour Party and prison reform advocates emphasised that the government’s move demonstrated that the UK penal system is failing and that the Conservative Party is unable of finding an alternative option.
As prisons ran out of room earlier this year, the Ministry of Justice triggered emergency procedures to hold criminals in 400 police cells. Official data from late September show that the UK now shelters 87,793 convicts. At the present rate of incarceration, that figure is predicted to climb to 94,400 by March 2025 and 106,300 by 2027. Meanwhile, the total capacity of UK jails is now recorded as 88,561.
Aside from overcrowding, conditions in British prisons have been deemed so bad that a German court refused to extradite an Albanian man to the UK last month, arguing that there were “valid grounds” to believe his fundamental rights would not be protected in the UK due to “the state of the British prison system.”