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UK law ministers seek judges' help to stem prison overcrowding

[JURIST] UK Home Secretary John Reid, Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer and Attorney General Lord Goldsmith [official profiles] wrote to British judges [HO press release] on Wednesday urging them to limit imposition of prison sentences to only the most dangerous criminals in order to help the government deal with prison overcrowding [BBC backgrounder; Guardian Q&A]. MPs on the opposition Conservative Party benches say the government is placing the public in danger by making such requests, but the Home Office insists that "By sentencing less serious offenders to tough community sentences instead of short prison sentences, not only would pressure on the prison system be alleviated but communities would also benefit from the work offenders would do as part of their community sentence."

In October, Reid announced an outline of a plan to combat the increasingly urgent problem of prison overcrowding [JURIST report]. According to a January 19 report, there are 79,375 prisoners in facilities in England and Wales, down from the 79,843 in October, but still less than 1,000 under the prison capacity of 80,114. Reuters has more.

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