LONDON (AP) -- England's prison population has hit a record high following the jailing of hundreds involved in the country's riots, according to figures released Friday. Prison officials said they were considering emergency plans to create space for the extra inmates.
Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice showed that the total prison population in England and Wales has reached 86,654 - just 1,500 places below the countries' operational capacity.
Prison authorities said they faced an "unprecedented situation" and were working on emergency plans to increase capacity. A spokeswoman for Britain's Prison Service said those plans could include boosting the number of prisoners held in each cell, reopening mothballed prison facilities or pressing forward with the opening of new ones.
The official - who spoke anonymously, in line with department policy - said the plans were simply being considered at this stage, stressing that there was no need yet.
About 700 people have been added to the country's prison system over the last seven days, many of them found guilty for roles in the four nights of unrest that swept London and other major cities last week.
About 1,300 people have appeared before British courts for the riots by Wednesday and around two-thirds had been jailed.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said he believes judges have been correct to impose tough sentences.
In one of the most eye-catching cases, two men were jailed for four years for attempting to incite rioting by posting messages on Facebook.
Activists and high-profile attorneys have criticized the harsh punishments.
Criminal lawyer John Cooper warned that judges and magistrates had a duty "not to be influenced by angry Britain," describing some of the sentences handed down as "disproportionate and somewhat hysterical."
Meanwhile, Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, visited a community center in the English city of Birmingham, where three men were killed in a hit-and-run during last week's violence.
The couple spent 15 minutes speaking with families of the victims and greeted emergency workers and locals at the city's Summerfield Community Center.