Lib Dems call for drugs to be legalised to tackle overcrowding in prisons

March 18, 2017 1:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have put forward ground-breaking proposals to reduce overcrowding in prisons, including overhauling sentencing policy and decriminalising the possession of drugs for personal use.

The party has also called on the Government to increase the number of prison officers beyond the 2,500 Liz Truss has promised.

The last three decades have seen the prison population in England and Wales almost double, from 44,975 in 1990 to 84,874 today. In December 2016, eighty out of 124 prisons in total were past 100% capacity and eighteen more were past 95% capacity.

There are over 11,000 people imprisoned for drug offences, figures from the House of Commons library have shown (link).

Liberal Democrat Shadow Justice Secretary Jonathan Marks commented:

"The rise in prisoner numbers and fall in prison staff has created unsafe environments where violence is widespread, the use of illegal drugs abounds and prisoners with mental health issues slip through the cracks.

"The simple fact is we will never turn prisons into places of rehabilitation and reform unless we send far fewer people in jail.

"The Government has finally admitted that prisons must act as places of education and reform and the proposals in the Prisons and Courts Bill are largely welcome.

"But these reforms to our prisons system are doomed to failure unless this Government addresses the endemic issue of overcrowding.

"This requires a radical overhaul of sentencing, include ending the criminalisation of drug users which sees many people sent to prison who pose no threat to society.

"We will be working in Parliament to make sure that the stated aspirations of this Bill become a reality."