April 17, 2008 12:00 AM

Welsh Liberal Democrat research has revealed that police forces in Wales have been forced to house nearly 3,500 prisoners in their police cells due to prison overcrowding and at a cost of over £3.2 million - the equivalent of more than 100 extra police officers.

The figures contained in Freedom of Information requests and parliamentary questions from Jenny Willott, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesman and MP for Cardiff Central, show that the average cost of housing a prisoner in a police cell in Wales is £942 per night - two and a half times Government estimates and 12 times the cost of housing them in prison.

Commenting, Jenny said:

"The Government's prisons crisis is forcing our police to baby-sit thousands of prisoners rather than catching criminals, and leaving the taxpayer to pick up the rocketing bill.

"Labour has massively underestimated the knock-on costs of their mismanagement of the criminal justice system. If this £3.2m of public money was spent sensibly, we could have over 100 extra police officers on the streets of Wales.

"Instead, money is pouring down the drain as prisons are packed to bursting, the police have to take the spill over, and the vast majority of offenders never get the drug, alcohol or mental health treatment they need to solve many of the problems behind their crimes.

"The Government has put us in this hopeless position by failing to plan for the future while putting record numbers behind bars in an effort to appear tough on crime. Meanwhile, reoffending levels remain the highest in Western Europe."

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