Boris Johnson is set to unveil plans to solve Britain’s prisons crisis, it has been reported.
The prime minister is contemplating the construction of a “mega-prison” in order to create more places in UK jails, The Times said.
He is expected to announce a new prison-building programme next week in an effort to place the Conservatives as the party of law and order ahead of a potential general election.
Mr Johnson will use a speech next week to say that overcrowded prisons in England and Wales are leading to increased violence and a failure to rehabilitate inmates.
It is thought Mr Johnson will take a harder stance than the previous Tory government led by Theresa May, scrapping former justice minister David Gauke’s plan to abolish jail sentences of six months or less for all but the most serious criminals.
During the Tory leadership campaign, Mr Johnson vowed to keeping sexual and violent offenders in jail for longer.
Prisons in the UK are operating at 97% of capacity and the number of assaults in prisons in the year to March reached 34,425, the highest ever recorded.
The prison population is expected to rise from 83,007 to 86,400 by 2023. Three years ago, the government announced plans to create 10,000 new places by 2020, but construction has only begun on one new prison.
A government source told The Times: “Boris wants to put rocket boosters under the prison-building programme. He’s talking about a new mega-prison, he’s trying to release cash.
“Prisons are overcrowded. We need better facilities and a better environment where prisoners can do more purposeful activity. It’s all part of making prisons more purposeful.”
The Times also reported that the Crown Prosecution Service will make an announcement about increasing the number of rape prosecutions, which fell to their lowest level for more than five years despite a large increase in recorded sex offences.
The Home Office has announced a review of how rape cases are handled by prosecutors and police after recent warnings that the privacy of victims was being violated by current disclosure practices.