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March 30, 2009 12:00 AM

Today, Jenny Willott, Welsh Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, revealed that the prisons overcrowding crisis cost Welsh Police Forces over £5.7 million over the last two years through housing prisoners in police cells - the equivalent of training and employing 216 new Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).

The research, compiled from figures in response to a Parliamentary Questions from Miss Willott, reveal that:

• Welsh Police Forces have invoiced the Home Office for £5.7m for costs incurred in housing 6,094 prisoners in their cells.

• Welsh forces were spending over £15,000 a day on accommodating new prisoners, some £105,000 a week.

• The average cost for housing a prisoner in a Welsh police cell was £939 a night.

• If this money had been spent on recruitment and training, Welsh police could have 125 new police officers, or 216 new PCSOs

Commenting, Jenny said:

"This is an outrageous waste of taxpayer's money. Wales could have over 200 new Bobbies on the beat for this amount of money.

"At a time when families have to watch every penny they spend, it is infuriating to discover that the Government has been forcing Welsh forces to spend £15,000 a day babysitting prisoners.

"The Government has a lot to answer. Just one night in a police cell costs the same as a week in a Deluxe King Suite in the five star St. David's Hotel in Cardiff.

"While the new set of prison building will help to delay this happening again, it is only a delay. The reality is that until we invest in effective alternative forms of punishment and rehabilitation for non violent criminals, our prisons will be overcrowded again in the not to distant future."