OVERCROWDING at Usk and Prescoed prison is forcing prisoners to share cells, eat, sleep and use the toilet in spaces designed for one, it has been revealed.

Ministry of Justice figures show that 526 prisoners were crammed into just 378 spaces at the prison, which is split over two sites, in July.

Prisons contain a number of one and two-person cells. In overcrowded prisons, more inmates will be put in cells than they were originally designed to hold.

HMP Usk/Prescoed has an extended 'operational capacity' - the maximum number of people it can accommodate safely while maintaining control and security - of 536 inmates.

The figures show it was operating at 98 per cent of this capacity during July.

Further, annual figures published by the Prison Service show that from April 2017 to March 2018, 58 per cent of prisoners - around 306 inmates - at HMP Usk/Prescoed were in overcrowded cells.

Prison Reform Trust director Peter Dawson said: “Overcrowding isn’t simply a case of being forced to share a confined space for up to 23 hours a day where you must eat, sleep and go to the toilet. It directly undermines all the basics of a decent prison system, including work, safety and rehabilitation.

“No government has succeeded in building its way out of overcrowding. So we need a fundamental rethink about who we send to prison and for how long.”

The figures were revealed after the UK Government took control of HMP Birmingham from contractor G4S following a damning inspection report.

According to the stats, HMP Usk/Prescoed is more crowed than Birmingham.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "Cramming more people into prisons than they were designed to hold is a recipe for violence, drug abuse and mental distress.

“Bold action is needed to reduce the number of people behind bars and ease the pressure on other prisons.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “All prisons in England and Wales are within their operational capacity which means they are safe for inmates.

“Nonetheless, reducing crowding is a central aim of our modernisation of the prison estate.

“That is why we have committed to delivering up to 10,000 new prison places across the country, and only last month announced that two new prisons would be built at Wellingborough and Glen Parva.”

The majority of inmates at HMP Usk/Prescoed are sex offenders. It caters only for men.