How not to count prison over-crowding

11th June 2015

There was a ministerial statement today from the Ministry of Justice, and it contained a remarkable admission.  But you had to look carefully.

The statement was headed with the unrevealing title “NOMS accounts – explanatory note”.

(NOMS is the National Offender Management Service, part of the MoJ.)

The admission was about prison over-crowding figures:

“In instances where two prisoners were held in a cell designed for one, both prisoners should be counted as being in crowded conditions. Some prisons, however, were only counting the additional prisoner.” 


It takes a special kind of genius to think that two prisoners in a cell intended for one means that only one of them was in over-crowded conditions.  Of course, both of the prisoners should have been counted.

And this is the same NOMS branch of the MoJ which is – disgustingly – seeking to sell “expertise” on prison management to the barbaric Saudi regime.



6 thoughts on “How not to count prison over-crowding”

  1. Easy to see how the grunts in charge of the prisons concerned got it wrong. “Overcrowding. They want to know about overcrowding. Well, we’ve got 300 inmates in a prison built for 200, so that’s 100 prisoners overcrowded. Right?”

  2. If you squint, you can almost see how this happened.
    Eg, prison has 100 cells and 110 prisoners, they have 10 prisoners too many, so the answer to any question about over-supply of prisoners is “10”.
    I don’t think it’s a “special kind of genius”, more a “don’t make me think”. Never attribute to malice etc…

  3. I guess it depends on the purpose of the counting.

    If the question is: “How many additional prisoner places do we need to relieve overcrowding?” then for a prison with 100 places and 110 prisoners, the answer is 10.

    If the question is “How many prisoners are experiencing overcrowded conditions?” that same scenario might give an answer of 20 (or perhaps 11, if all 10 extra prisoners were added to a cell for 1).

  4. Actually, I think that 110 prisoners in a prison for 100 *should* be counted as overcrowding of 10. If it results in 20 prisoners sharing cells, and you count that as overcrowding by 20, then the obvious way to reduce overcrowding is by putting 11 prisoners in one cell. Then overcrowding has gone down to 11, but the situation with regard to overcrowding is surely worse, so it seems to me that counting it as 10 regardless of how they are distributed is more robust against gaming the figures.

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