January 30, 2008 12:00 AM

Commenting on today's Chief Inspectorate of Prisons' Annual Report, Jenny Willott, Lib Dem Shadow Minister for Prisons and MP for Cardiff Central, said:

"This report is a rallying cry to put the brakes on the short-sighted and dangerous direction that the Government is taking our criminal justice system.

"We have record numbers behind bars with thousands of people not getting the mental health, drug and alcohol treatment that they badly need. At the same time, 65% of offenders reoffend within two years and many leave prison with few skills or prospects of landing a job.

"The Government's plans to build its way out of the problem with enormous new 'titan prisons' is destined to fail. This report shows that once built, new prisons quickly fill up and that larger prisons are less safe and effective than smaller ones.

"What's more, the current prison service budget cuts are leading to weekend lockdowns across the prison estate, with no activities or training available to prisoners from Friday morning to Monday morning. This puts their health and safety in jeopardy, particularly for the most vulnerable with mental health problems, and undermines the valuable education and rehabilitation work.

"Successive Labour and Tory governments' determination to be 'tough' rather than 'smart' on crime has left us with the prison and probation services creaking at the seams.

"The Government should take heed of the Chief Inspector of Prisons and radically rethink its approach before we end up in a mini-America with world record numbers behind bars, and with record re-offending. That is to no-one's benefit."

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