Labour attacks Chris Grayling over prison overcrowding

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Labour has criticised the government's handling of the prison system in England and Wales, claiming that Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is failing to address an overcrowding problem.

The criticism followed claims by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, that dozens of full jails in England and Wales were told to take more inmates.

Opposition spokesman Lord Bach asked: "When will the government acknowledge and act on the fact that violence on prison staff has increased by 45% since 2010?

"There has been a 60% rise in the number of times the prison riot squad has been called out and a doubling in the last two years of the use of Gold command [the officials who co-ordinate the emergency response to serious outbreaks of violence in prisons]," he said on 16 June 2014.

Justice Minister Lord Faulks, however, denied there was an overcrowding problem and said there are more than 1,000 spare places across the prisons estate, with an additional 2,000 places being built by next April.

Lord Faulks admitted that there was some "temporary overcrowding" in prisons where prisoners were being forced to "double up" in their cells, but assured peers that these cells had been approved for occupation by two people.

The Conservative peer also rejected claims that Mr Grayling was being "cavalier" about overcrowding.

Repeating a statement made by the justice secretary in the House of Commons, Lord Faulks said the government was taking steps to deal with short-term pressures in the prisons system, including drafting in former prison staff as reserve workers to cover staff shortages in jails.

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