The Iranian parliament heard harsh criticism today about the state of prisons in Iran. Younes Mousavi, a member of parliament’s judicial commission, told parliament prisons are so overcrowded that some prisoners are obliged to sleep in stairways.

As parliament reviews the annual government budget, Mousavi said the annual budget of Prisons Organization does not even cover the cost of food and clothing, adding: “The prisons are facing so many difficulties that every two prisoners have to share a blanket.”

Mousavi said the removal of government subsidies on energy means utility bills have surged, so that the annual prison budget is just enough to cover their water, electricity and gas needs.

He proposed reducing water and electricity tariffs for prisons, but parliament did not agree.

Mousavi’s statements were heavily criticized by conservative MP Mehdi Kouchakzadeh, who accused Mousavi of disrespect toward the country’s “national prestige.”

“Mr. Mousavi might have visited one or two prisons,” Kouchakzadeh said. “But he should know that I too have visited a number of prisons, and it is not true that there is one blanket for every two prisoners.”

In recent months, however, the head of the Iranian Prisons Organization and other judiciary officials have expressed concern over the situation of prisons and urged prosecutors to make every effort to reduce the number of detainees.

The head of the organization announced two months ago that the prison population had surged by 55,000 people within the past year and a half, with no prison expansions to ease the crowding.

Over the past two years, the opposition as well as scores of political prisoners and their families have protested the lack of space and the inadequate hygienic and medical facilities in prisons.