Wandsworth Prison is declared most overcrowded in the country
Wandsworth Prison is the most overcrowded jail in the country with hundreds of inmates forced to sleep in cells with an open toilet, according to a new report.
New research by the Howard League for Penal Reform has uncovered the true and shocking scale of overcrowding in the nation's prison system.
The figures, taken from the financial year 2012-013, shows that 835 prisoners were forced to share a cell which housed an open toilet.
The report also found, nationwide, that 19,140 prisoners were sharing cells designed for one inmate - another 777 prisoners slept three to a cell.
It demonstrates that the problem is far greater than ministers have suggested because official government prison population figures mask the full extent of overcrowding .
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "At last, we have the picture of the real state of overcrowding in our prisons.
"It’s far worse than anyone imagined: one in four people behind bars are packed like sardines into cramped cells.
"It should come as little surprise that such crowded conditions leave staff hugely overstretched, especially as more are being laid off.
"This means there are little to no opportunities for prisoners to work, learn or take courses to turn them away from crime.
"If the Ministry of Justice is serious about reducing reoffending it must tackle overcrowding now. Successive governments have peddled the lie that you can build your way out of a prisons overcrowding problem."
Wandsworth Prison has endured criticism from all corners following a number of scathing reports and incidents involving prisoners in recent years.
Last year the jail was branded the least safe in the country by the country's chief jail inspector Nick Hardwick.
The 161-year-old facility, which holds 1,665 prisoners, was accused of failures such as poor treatment by staff, victimisation of Muslim inmates and a lack of satisfactory alcohol treatment - prisoners often had to chose between a telephone call or a shower.
Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said: "Let's be clear what overcrowding in prison actually means - typically it means having to share a cell rather than have one to yourself.
"Prisoners are treated humanely but prison is not somewhere that anyone should be comfortable about going back to.
"All prisons have safe population levels and have capacity to take those sent there by the courts. We are replacing older prisons with newer accommodation that is cheaper to run.
"I will continue to look for ways to make the prison system more efficient and to tackle our stubbornly high reoffending rates."
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