Jeremy Wright told MPs the issue was being dealt with “by seeking to recruit prison officers who’ve recently left the service”, adding it was a “responsible thing to do”.
His comments came as Labour asked during Commons Justice questions by how many prison officers was the system short.
Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) asked: “From the minister’s earlier response you would think that everything in the Prison Service was fine. So how many prison officers short is the system?”
Mr Wright responded: “We always try and provide for the right number of prison officers at any given moment and we’re going through a process of what is called bench marking to ensure that we’ve got the right number of prison officers to deliver the regime that we need.
“It is true, of course, that there is a short-term problem, which is an increase in the prison population that nobody saw coming, including he and his colleagues I may add, and we are dealing with that problem by seeking to recruit prison officers who’ve recently left the service.
“That’s a responsible thing to do.”
Mr Wright also told MPs the Government was asking private sector prisons to “take some additional places” and asking prisoners to share cells.
Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said: “The Minister is giving the impression of somebody both complacent and out of touch... governors of overcrowded public prisons are being told they have to squeeze more offenders into their jails without any additional resources or help.”