‘Tough on crime’ created the prisons crisis. It’s time for justice to be rational | Polly Toynbee

Despite falling crime, prisoner numbers are surging in England and Wales. Our overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded jails desperately need changeA good test of a country’s state of development is a visit to its prisons. Upcoming states may flaunt glitzy Gucci- and Versace-heavy shopping malls, but if their prisons are black holes of squalor and injustice, civilisation is a thin veneer. Increasingly, Britain fails that test, a country whose social fabric is in decline, and nowhere more than in its shameful jails.

Related: Surge in jail population adds to strain on overstretched prison service

Easing numbers would be easy under any justice secretary not obsessed with Daily Mail opinion

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