United Kingdom

Detention issue

Cell space

FRA research findings

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Legal instruments & key provisions

Legal instrument Key provision
England and Wales - Prison Act (1952)Regarding the assessment of space available for prisoners, several parameters have been developed: by defining the cell activities, by listing and dimensioning the furniture and fittings to be provided and by providing an ergonomic study to determine the space needed for cell activities and use of furniture and fittings. Typical single cells without crowding capacity measure 5.5 m2. Typical single cells, which can be doubled, measure at least 6.5 m2.
Scotland - Prison and Young Offenders Institutions (Scotland) Rules 2011Each cell or room used to accommodate prisoners must be of an adequate size and fitted with means of communication with an officer. Each cell or room used to accommodate prisoners must be adequately lit by natural or artificial light, heated and ventilated, and furnished as is necessary and appropriate for the type of accommodation or area of the prison, all as necessary for the health and safety of prisoners.
Northern Ireland - Prison and Young Offenders Centres Rules (Northern Ireland) 1995Accommodation for prisoners shall be in accordance with directions approved by the Department of Justice and shall be of such size and be lighted, warmed, ventilated and fitted in such a manner as is requisite for health and human dignity.


Year Recommendation Report
2018Regarding overcrowding, the NPM for Scotland simply states: Cells are occupied according to the capacity for which they are designed. Those sharing cells are accommodated in double occupancy cells. Report details
2018The NPM for England and Wales’s expectations do not mention overcrowding per se, however, inspectors expect the following: Accommodation meets agreed minimum standards (size, heating, ventilation) and provides adequate space for the number of prisoners held in the cell. And in shared cells, washing facilities are screened. Report details