Reports have shown a decline in the number of inmates within the Doncaster, Moorland, Lindholme and Hatfield Prisons since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

Why are we seeing a decrease?

Since the pandemic, court cases have been on hold causing a staggering 50,000 cases to be put on hold and counting. The pandemic is now being blamed for the new numbers of inmates being let into the prisons, causing a lasting strain on the defendants and victims alike.

The number of prisoners fell by six per cent to 78,058 at the end of March. The Ministry of Justice released statistics that showed 245 inmates at Hatfield prison as of March 31 – 119 less than at the same point in 2020; 972 inmates at Moorland – 11 less than at the same point in 2020; 931 inmates at Lindholme prison – 10 less and 1,038 inmates at Doncaster – 63 less than at the same point in 2020.

Between March 31 2020 and March 31 2021, the total prison population has fallen by around 4,900, however this overall figure masks the trends seen for certain population groups stated the Ministry of Justice.

They continued with their report stating that the number of people held on remand and those in prison awaiting trial or sentencing had reached a ten-year high last month as of March 31 2021. Due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the prison population.

The statistics so far

Numbers in defendants on remand has increased by 22 per cent over the past year, to 12,262. This is the highest it has been as of March 31 showing the highest figure in ten years.

However, with the delays in court hearings, the sentenced prison population has fallen by ten per cent over the past year, to 64,783, which is the lowest level for 15 years as of March 31 2021.

Over the last ten years, there has been a steady falling trend in the number of new prisoners entering the facility each year.

However, as a result of disruption to court processes due to the coronavirus pandemic, the decrease has been sharper.

The plan now moving forward

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The backlog in the courts has put additional strain on everyone affected by crime – not only defendants spending longer in prison awaiting trial, but also victims, who are having to wait even longer for their cases to be heard.

“Now, more than ever before, it is vital that police and prosecutors use their discretion and make sensible decisions to ensure that people are not swept into the system unnecessarily.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “Courts have been prioritising the most urgent cases throughout the pandemic to protect the public and ensure offenders continue to face justice.

“Thanks to measures such as Nightingale courts and the rapid expansion of videos hearings, outstanding magistrates’ cases have fallen by 50,000 since last summer.”

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