MORE people than ever before will spend Christmas behind bars this year, figures revealed.
A total of 87,393 people are being held in prisons in England and Wales today, 567 fewer than last week, but almost 4,000 more compared with 12 months ago, with none released over the weekend, Prison Service figures showed.
They come after campaigners warned that the size of the current prison population was “neither justifiable or sustainable”.
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Unless Government can succeed in reserving prison for serious and violent offenders the cost to the taxpayer will rocket in 2012.
The prison population hit an all-time high of 88,179 three weeks ago, but the new figures are the highest ever for the Christmas period. Last Christmas saw 83,701 prisoners behind bars, compared with 84,231 in 2009, 82,918 in 2008, 80,707 in 2007, and 79,627 in 2006.
The prison population had never exceeded 87,214 before September this year.
A Prison Service spokesman said: “We have seen a significant rise in the prison population since the summer.
“We currently have enough prison places for those being remanded and sentenced to custody. Capacity will continue to increase throughout 2012 with the opening of two new prisons.
“We will continue to explore contingency arrangements should further pressure be placed on the prison estate.”