Prisoners forced to share overcrowded cells in Elmley and Maidstone
Hundreds of prisoners across Kent are being squeezed into overcrowded cells, it's been revealed.
New research by the Howard League for Penal Reform shows more than 400 inmates in the county are sharing cells originally designed for one prisoner.
Hundreds more are three to a cell in spaces designed for two prisoners.
In fact, Elmley prison on Sheppey is second worst in the country for having three inmates in cells made for two - with only Belmarsh in south East London worse.
In Elmley, a staggering 360 prisoners are sharing cells made for one, with a further 237 squeezing into rooms holding three that were built for two.
In 2011 its total population was listed as 1,252.
Maidstone has 58 inmates sharing cells made for one and Canterbury - which has now closed - had 160 inmates sharing a one-man cell.
Other prisons in Kent fared better, with Blantyre House, East Sutton Park and Swaleside having no overcrowding.
Exterior of Maidstone Prison
The worst-affected prison in England and Wales was Wandsworth, which typically had 835 prisoners sharing cells.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "At last, we have the picture of the real state of overcrowding in our prisons.
"It's far worse than anyone imagined: one in four people behind bars are packed like sardines into cramped cells.
"It shoiuld come as little surprise that such crowded conditions leave staff hugely overstretched, especially as more are being laid off.
"This means there are little to no opportunities for prisoners to work, learn or take courses to turn them away from crime."
The Ministry of Justice is yet to comment.
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