March 4, 2008 12:00 AM

Today, Jenny Willott, Lib Dem Justice Spokesman and MP for Cardiff Central, released figures showing that there were 370 incidents of violence between prisoners in Welsh prisons in 2007, a record high and more than 14 times higher since Labour came to power.

The figures, contained in a Parliamentary Question from Miss Willott, also show that for every 100 prisoners in Welsh prisons there are 14 incidents of violence - double the 2000 level.

Commenting, Jenny said:

"It is completely unacceptable that in Welsh prisons, there is at least one violent incident everyday and that one in seven in mates is a victim of prison violence.

"The Government's addiction to criminal justice legislation has left our jails packed to the rafters prison staff stretched to the limit and prisoners in ever closer proximity. It is hardly surprising that prisoner on prisoner violence has spiralled out of control.

"How can we expect offenders to be rehabilitated within the penal system if they are exposed to such high levels of violence? These figures suggest that there is a real risk they may become more dangerous criminals than when they went in.

"Ministers must realise that we cannot build our way out of the current prison crisis. All the evidence shows that new prison places will be filled so quickly that we will be back to square one in no time at all.

"The Government must take a more long-term strategic view and look at moving drug addicts and prisoners with mental health problems into more appropriate accommodation, as well as examining alternatives to short custodial sentences."

Commenting on the abscondment of Andrew Clifford Phillips from Prescoed Prison, Jenny Willott MP added:

"It's unclear why a prisoner, who is deemed extremely dangerous by the police, is serving time in an open prison so early into his sentence. It raises questions whether it is a result of other prisons being too full.

"If this is the case then it is extremely worrying. The Government's prison crisis should not tie the hands officials when deciding where to send violent and dangerous offenders.

"It is equally absurd that there are so many other non-violent offenders who are serving time when what they really need is drug or mental healthcare in secure facilities."

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