Plans for 300 extra cells at Wayland

Three hundred extra prisoners could be incarcerated at a Norfolk prison under plans to ease Britain's prison overcrowding crisis.

Three hundred extra prison-ers could be incarcerated at a Norfolk prison under plans to ease Britain's prison overcrowding crisis.

As the UK's prison population exceeded its 80,000 inmate capacity, Wayland Prison governor Michael Wood confirmed there are provisional plans to extend cell capacity at the jail at Griston, near Watton, to house up to 1,000 inmates.

The new cells would be part of a national programme to create space for 10,000 extra prisoners.

The government has been urging judges and magistrates to jail only the most persistent and dangerous offenders as one way to lessen the crisis.

A dilapidated wing of Norwich Prison, which was deemed "unfit for human habitation" has also been reopened as part of the emergency measures.

Mr Wood said the Wayland extension would be a "positive step forward" for the prison and the development would be within the existing grounds.

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A prison service spokesman added: "The National Offender Management Service is considering Wayland as a site where additional prison places might be created as part of the national programme to create 10,000 new places."

He explained the expansion plan was at an early stage and action would be subject to a successful planning applic-ation.

The category C prison, which specialises in the rehabilitation of sex offenders, regularly operates at about 99pc of its current 709 capacity.

A report last year by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons said that although Wayland was one of the best-performing prisons in Britain, overcrowding was restricting attempts to rehabilitate offenders.

The November report said that Wayland had retained its "high performing" status for the second inspection running.

It highlighted low levels of self-harm and bullying, good relationships between staff and inmates, good healthcare, prisoners spending lengthy periods out of their cells, and access to high quality education.

But it said the prison was unable to provide real work and training for significant numbers of prisoners, public protection arrangements had deteriorated since the last inspection and one in three prisoners had no plan structuring the management of their sentence.