Prisons designed for 6,600 inmates now hold 8,013 – 'and it won't stop here'

SCOTLAND'S prison population has broken through the 8,000 barrier for the first time, triggering calls for urgent government action and the building of more jails.

A recent Audit Scotland report revealed that Scotland is third in a European league of prison overcrowding, behind Spain and France.

The latest figures show there are 8,013 inmates locked up in the country's jails, with a further 371 having been released on home detention programmes to ease pressure on the system.

Dave Melrose, the chairman of the Prison Officers Association Scotland, said the situation was likely to get even worse.

"My fear is that it won't stop here," he said. "Instead of closing prisons down as they did, the government should be opening more jails."

The design capacity of Scotland's prisons is 6,600, although by "doubling up" inmates two to a cell the capacity can be increased.

Critics say that the opening of Addiewell prison, due by the end of the year, will be too little too late.

The figures will come as an embarrassment to Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, who has pledged to reduce the prison population.

Ministers have also promised to end automatic release, which will inevitably bump up the prison population.

A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said the prison population had been increasing for years, but officers continued to cope well with the situation.

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