The jail system is in “serious crisis” with overcrowding affecting rehabilitation of offenders, the chief inspector of prisons has warned.
Anne Owers said some jails have become “riskier places to manage” because of the overcrowding problem.
Many male prisoners had mental health issues that would be better addressed in secure hospitals, Ms Owers said.
A Home Office spokesman said it shared her concerns on “a number of issues” and was “addressing the problems”.
There are nearly 80,000 prisoners in England and Wales, with some inmates held in police stations and court cells to ease overcrowding.