London, Feb.24 : Britain's overfilled jails are at 'panic stations', lurching from crisis to crisis, the country's chief inspector of prisons has told the London Observer in an interview. Anne Owers was quoted by the Guardian as saying that Britain's prison population has risen above the critical 82,000 mark for the first time, and she was not sure how long the system could "contain this kind of huge pressure".
"For the last six months we've been looking at a system that moves from panic stations to just about containing crisis," Owers said, and warned that disturbances within the prison system were rising as a result of overcrowding.
"Prisoners are getting very frustrated; staff are struggling to survive the day. That's not a good recipe for running prisons. It's a very risky situation," she said.
Blaming successive ministers for the problem, Owers said: "This is a result of decisions taken - or not taken - a long time ago."
The Guardian quoted Conservatives' prisons spokesman, Nick Herbert , as saying that Owers comments should be a wake-up call for the government, and suggested that Justice Secretary Jack Straw "must come to parliament tomorrow to explain how he is going to deal with this crisis of the government's own making and what provision he has made for emergency capacity."
Experts suggest it is only a matter of time before the government is forced to release more prisoners early.