THE Ministry of Justice is to be grilled regarding what have been branded ‘shocking’ statistics on Welsh prisons system.

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader and Justice spokesperson, Liz Saville Roberts MP will today (Wednesday, November 29) lead a Westminster Hall debate on the state of the prisons system in Wales.

Ahead of the debate, Ms Saville Roberts described the system as “overcrowded, under-resourced, and plagued by problems from drugs to soaring suicide rates.”

The debate follows the publication of a report Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre earlier this month which showed that the number of people sleeping rough post-release has more than trebled in a year.

This report is the latest in a series of publications focusing on the Welsh criminal justice system, which began in 2018, drawing together information published by the Ministry of Justice, as well as previously unseen data which has been obtained from the Ministry of Justice via the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Further findings show that Wales has a significantly higher “in country” imprisonment rate than other parts of the UK at 177 per 100,000 of the population. 

This is followed by England (146), Scotland (146) and Northern Ireland (100). This calculation, taken from 2023 figures, is based on the number of people held in prison within that country’s borders.

Ahead of the debate, Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “The criminal justice system in Wales is in crisis: overcrowded, under-resourced, and plagued by problems from drugs to soaring suicide rates. It fails at its core purpose of making society safer, and too often has the opposite effect.

“Dr Robert Jones' report highlights a shocking reality - post-release, the number of people sleeping rough has more than trebled, revealing a system in shambles. 

"We know that homeless ex-prisoners are significantly more likely to reoffend that those living in housing. This cycle, where homeless people are imprisoned briefly only to be dumped back onto the streets, benefits no one.

“On many key measures, the Welsh criminal justice system performs even worse than that of England, which itself has a reputation as one of the worst performers in western Europe. 

"There are higher rates of violent offences, higher over-representation of black and Asian people and increased incarceration rates compared to England.

“All of these problems are compounded by an overly complex constitutional division of responsibilities between Westminster and Cardiff, leading to confusion and incoherence in justice and policing in Wales. 

"This complexity not only burdens bureaucracy but complicates and negatively impacts people's lives.

“Today, I will make the case for the devolution of justice to Wales based on hard, cold facts."

Ahead of the debate, a Prison Service spokesman said: “The latest figures and inspections show Welsh prisons are performing well and we are embarking on the biggest prison-expansion programme since the Victorian era - creating an additional 20,000 modern places to rehabilitate offenders and cut crime. 

"The Welsh public prison workforce grew by nearly 100 officers in the year to 30 September 2023.

“We are also investing millions to provide temporary accommodation for those at risk of becoming homeless on release to help them turn their lives around.”

The spokesman added that the Prison Service has seen "an increase in capacity" at HMP Berwyn as part of its planned ‘ramp-up’. It now has a capacity of 2,000.


It was also stated that although the service aims to keep prisoners from Wales in prisons in Wales, in certain circumstances, they may require accommodation in English prisons.

This may be due to their security category, sentence length, or their offending behaviour requirements. However, during a prisoner’s resettlement phase, every effort is made to ensure male prisoners from Wales are released from Welsh prisons.

On September 30, 2022, there were 1,525 staff in post at the five public sector prisons in HMPPS Wales Prison Service.

This has risen to 1622 as of September 30, 2023 – an increase of 97 operational and non-operational staff over this period.