Facts and figures provide a better basis than opinion for policy and practice change. Drawn largely from government sources, these facts chart the extraordinary rise in prison numbers over the last twenty years, inflation in sentencing and the social and economic consequences of overuse of custody. They reveal the state of our overcrowded prisons and the state of people in them, the impact of deep budget cuts, the pace and scale of change in the justice system and the scope for community solutions to crime.
On 17 June 2016, the prison population in England and Wales was 84,405. 1 Since 1993 the prison population in England and Wales has increased by more than 41,000 people, a 92% rise. 2 People in prison, prisoners and staff, are less safe than they were five years ago.
More prisoners were murdered, killed themselves, self- harmed and were victims of assaults. 3 290 people died in prison in the 12 months to March 2016, the highest number on record. Over a third of these deaths were self-inflicted. 4 There were six homicides in prison in the 12 months to 2016, the highest number on record. 5 Serious assaults in prison have more than doubled in the last three years. There were 2,197 serious prisoner on prisoner assaults and 625 serious assaults on staff in 2015. 6 Sexual assaults have more than doubled since 2011.
There were 300 recorded assaults in 2015. 7 The National Tactical Response Group, a specialist unit assisting in safely managing and resolving serious incidents in prisons responded to over 400 incidents in 2014–15. 8 Emergency services were called out more than 26,600 times to incidents in UK prisons in 2015. 9 There has been a 57% increase in the number of fires in prison in the past year.
There were 1,935 fires in 2015—an average of more than 160 a month. 10
Rates of self-harm are at the highest level ever recorded. There were 32,313 self-harm incidents in 2015—a nearly 40% rise in just two years. 11 People serving the indeterminate sentence for public protection (IPP) have one of the highest rates of self-harm in prison. For every 1,000 people serving an IPP there were 550 incidents of self-harm.
This compares with 324 incidents for people serving a determinate sentence, and is more than twice the rate for people serving life sentences. 12 Women accounted for 23% of all incidents of self-harm in 2015 despite representing just 5% of the total prison population.
This has fallen sharply since 2011 when women accounted for over a third of all incidents, and reflects a sharp rise in incidents amongst men. 13 The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman found that in 39 deaths in prison between June 2013 and June 2015, the prisoner was known, or strongly suspected, to have been using new psychoactive substances before their deaths.
14 448 young people aged 15–24 have died in prison in the last 20 years. 87% of these deaths were classified as self-inflicted. 15 The number of deaths from natural causes has nearly doubled in less than a decade. 167 people died of natural causes in the 12 months to March 2016, a 12% increase on the previous year. 16 The average age of people dying from natural causes in prison between 2007 and 2010 was 56 years old. 17
Prison population and sentencing trends Use of custody Between 1993 and 2015 the prison population in England and Wales increased by more than 41,000 people, a 92% rise.
18 England and Wales have the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe, locking up 147 people per 100,000 of the population. Scotland has a rate of 143 per 100,000 and Northern Ireland 78 per 100,000. 19 On 17 June 2016, the prison population in England and Wales was 84,405.
20 Scotland’s prison population was 7,678 and on 10 June Northern Ireland’s prison population was 1,521. 21 Prison has a poor record for reducing reoffending—46% of adults are reconvicted within one year of release. For those serving sentences of less than 12 months this increases to 60%. Over two-thirds (68%) of under 18 year olds are reconvicted within a year of release.
22 According to the National Audit Office, there is no consistent correlation between prison numbers and levels of crime. 23 International comparisons also show there is no consistent link between the two
rison sentences are getting longer.
The average prison sentence is now more than three months longer than ten years ago—16.2 months. For more serious, indictable offences, the average is 56.8 months—18 months longer than a decade ago. 25 Greater use of long custodial sentences accounted for 66% of the rise in the prison population between 1993 and 2012. The number of people serving sentences of four years or more, including indeterminate sentences, increased by 26,600.
26 They now account for nearly three in five (56%) sentenced prisoners. 27 Short prison sentences are less effective than community sentences at reducing reoffending. 28 Despite this, nearly half (48%) of all people entering prison under sentence are serving a sentence of six months or less. 29 Life and indeterminate sentences Increasing numbers of people in prison don’t know if, or when, they might be released.
Indeterminate sentences account for 16% of the sentenced prison population, up from 9% in 1993. 30 11,505 people are currently serving indeterminate sentences. 64% are serving a life sentence (7,372) while the remaining 36% (4,133) are serving an Indeterminate sentence for Public Protection (IPP).
Four-fifths (81%) of people serving an IPP sentence are still in prison despite having passed their tariff expiry date—the minimum period they must spend in custody. 32 People were held for 44 months beyond tariff on average —however many still in prison will have been held for considerably longer.
33 The rate of release for IPP prisoners has increased in the past year. In 2015 for every 1,000 people serving an IPP sentence 121 were released. 34 England and Wales have more than twice as many people serving indeterminate sentences than France, Germany and Italy combined—the highest in Europe by a significant margin. 35 People serving mandatory life sentences are spending more of their sentence in prison. On average they spend 17 years in custody, up from 13 years in 2001.
36 Lifers continue to serve their sentence on release from prison for the rest of their lives. They are subject to monitoring and restrictions and can be returned to custody at any point if they break the terms of their licence.
There are currently 54 people serving a whole life sentence—they are unlikely to ever be released. 3
People remanded to custody to await trial are innocent until proven guilty. 40,458 people were sent to prison before their trial in 2015. 38 Three-fifths (60%) of people entering prison on remand awaiting trial are accused of non-violent offences.
17% were for theft offences, and 10% for drug offences. 39 People on remand currently make up 12% of the total prison population—10,066 people. The majority are awaiting trial (68%), whilst the rest await sentencing. 40 Two in every five self-inflicted deaths in 2015 were by prisoners held on remand . 41 One in ten people (10,897) remanded in custody were subsequently acquitted.
A further 15% of people (15,564) received a non-custodial sentence. 42 People spend an average of just over 10 weeks in custody whilst on remand. 43 However, some may be held considerably longer. Remand prisoners receive no financial help from the Prison Service at the point of release. 44 Those acquitted receive no compensation
Performance and outcomes Reoffending Prison has a poor record for reducing reoffending —46% of adults are reconvicted within one year of release. For those serving sentences of less than 12 months this increases to 60%. 45 48% of women leaving prison are reconvicted within one year .
46 For women who have served more than 11 previous custodial sentences, the reoffending rate rises to 77%. 47 Over two-thirds (68%) of under 18 year olds are reconvicted within a year of release. 48 Short prison sentences are less effective than community sentences at reducing reoffending. People serving prison sentences of less than 12 months had a reoffending rate seven percentage points higher than similar offenders serving a community sentence—they also committed more crimes.
49 Reoffending by all recent ex-prisoners costs the economy between £9.5 and £13 billion annually. As much as three quarters of this cost can be attributed to former short-sentenced prisoners: some £7–10bn a yearRelease on temporary licence (ROTL) In 99.95% of cases ROTL is completed successfully.
51 In 2012, just 26 cases involved the prisoner being arrested on suspicion of committing an offence. 52 Despite this, new restrictions on ROTL have seen a 37% drop in its use in the last two years. At the time restrictions were introduced the success rate was 99.93%. 53 Almost two-thirds (65%) of voluntary and private sector providers of ROTL placements surveyed said they had seen a decrease in ROTL —with some organisations reporting that their ROTL placements had “completely stopped” or become “almost impossible”.
54 During 2014–15, there were a total of 1,273 people, on average only 368 per month, working out of the prison on licence. 55 They paid £246 per month on average to the Prisoners’ Earnings Act levy—the equivalent of nearly 30% of their net earnings. 56
Prison service resources and staffing The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has reduced its budget by nearly a quarter since 2010–11.
Between 2010–11 and 2014–15 it delivered cumulative savings of almost £900m. 57 NOMS has a savings target of a further £91m for 2015–16. 58 The cost of a prison place reduced by 18% between 2009–10 and 2014–15. The average annual overall cost of a prison place in England and Wales is now £36,259.
59 The daily prison food budget within public sector prisons for 2014–15 was £2.02 per person. 60 There are now fewer staff looking after more prisoners. The number of staff employed in the public prison estate has fallen by 30% in the last six years—13,720 fewer staff looking after nearly 450 more people. 61 Staff shortages have required the use of detached duty. During June 2015, there were 270 people deployed to a different prison to ensure that there was a safe number of staff.
62vercrowding The prison system as a whole has been overcrowded in every year since 1994. 63 Overcrowding affects whether activities, staff and other resources are available to reduce risk of reoffending. At the end of May 2016, 74 of the 118 prisons in England and Wales were overcrowded. 64 21,755 people were held in overcrowded accommodation on average in 2014–15—more than a quarter of the prison population. The majority were doubling up in cells designed for one.
65 Private prisons have held a higher percentage of their prisoners in overcrowded accommodation than public sector prisons every year for the past 17 years. 66 By June 2020 the prison population is projected to reach 89,600. 67 Treatment and conditions The proportion of prisons whose performance is “of concern” or “of serious concern” almost doubled from one in eight (13%) in 2012–13, to one in four (24%) in 2014–15. 68 Prisons are getting bigger. 48% of prisoners are now held in prisons of 1,000 places or more. 6
Nearly 8,700 prisoners are working in the public prison estate, and a further 2,700 are working in private prisons. In 2014–15 they worked a total of 14.9 million hours.
70 People in prison—a snapshot Men represent 95% of the prison population in England and Wales. Unless otherwise stated, references to people in prison largely concern men. Children and young adults The number of children (under-18s) in custody has fallen by 71% in the last eight years. 71 They are also committing fewer crimes—with proven offences down by 71% from their peak in 2006. 72 At the end of March 2016 there were 882 children in custody in England and Wales. 33 children were aged 14 or younger. 73 29% of children in custody in 2014–15 were there for non-violent crimes.
74 Fewer than 1% of all children in England are in care, 75 but they make up over half (52%) of children in secure training centres and almost two-fifths (38%) of children in young offender institutions. 76 One in five children in custody surveyed reported that they had learning difficulties. 77 Three-quarters of children in prison had an absent father, one-third had an absent mother. Two-fifths had been on the child protection register or had experienced neglect or abuse. 78 Use of restraint
on children is increasing. In 2015 there were 28 incidents of restraint per 100 children in custody, up from 18 in 2010. 79 There were 429 injuries reported as a result of restraint in 2015. 80 Assault rates amongst children in custody are rising. In 2015 there were 16 assaults per 100 children in custody, up from 9 in 2010. 8
4,668 young adults (aged 18–20) are currently in prison in England and Wales. 82 There are now 43% fewer young adults in prison in England and Wales than in 2011. 83 The minimum age that a person can be prosecuted in a criminal trial in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 10 years. This compares to 12 years in Canada, 13 years in France, 14 years in Germany and China, and 15 years in Sweden. In Scotland the age of criminal responsibility is eight years, but the minimum age for prosecution is 12. 84 Women The number of women in prison nearly trebled between 1993 and 2005.
Numbers have started slowly to reduce, but there are still 1,900 more women in prison today than there were twenty years ago. 85 On 17 June 2016 there were 3,861 women in prison in England and Wales. 86 8,818 women entered prison in 2015. 45% of them first entered prison on remand.
Most women entering prison under sentence (85%) have committed a non-violent offence. 42% entered custody under sentence in 2015 for theft and handling stolen goods.
88 Most women entering prison serve very short sentences. 61% of sentenced women entering prison in 2015 were serving six months or less. 89 In 1993 only a third of women entering custody were sentenced to six months or less. 90 53% of women in prison reported experiencing emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child, compared to 27% of men.
91 46% of women in prison report having suffered a history of domestic abuse. 92 Prisoners’ families More than double the number of children are affected by parental imprisonment than divorce in the family. 93 Approximately 200,000 children in England and Wales had a parent in prison at some point in 2009. 94 It is estimated that in 2010 more than 17,240 children were separated from their mother by imprisonment.
Between 13–19% of women in prison are estimated to have one or more dependent children.
96 Parental imprisonment approximately trebles the risk for antisocial or delinquent behaviour by their children. 97 Over half (54%) of prisoners interviewed had children under the age of 18 when they entered prison. The vast majority felt they had let their family down (82%). 98 40% of prisoners said that support from their family, and 36% said that seeing their children, would help them stop reoffending in the future. 99 Women are often held further away from their families, making visiting difficult and expensive.
The average distance is 60 miles, but many are held considerably further away. 100 Foreign national prisoners The term ‘foreign national prisoner’ encompasses many different people. They may have come to the UK as children with parents, or be second generation immigrants; they may be asylum seekers or been given indefinite leave to remain as a refugee; they could be European nationals; those who have entered the UK illegally or were in the UK as students, visitors or workers who have got involved in the criminal justice system. Foreign nationals (non-UK passport holders) currently make up 12% of the prison population in England and Wales.
On 31 March 2016 there were 9,971 foreign nationals in prison. 101 Foreign national prisoners come from 166 countries, but over half are from nine countries (Poland, Ireland, Romania, Jamaica, Albania, Lithuania, Pakistan, Somalia and India). 102 Nearly half (49%) of foreign nationals serving a sentence in prison are there for non-violent offences.
1Currently 13% of women in prison are foreign nationals 104 —some of whom are known to have been coerced or trafficked into offending. One in ten foreign national women serving a sentence in prison are there for fraud and forgery offences (usually possession of false documents), and nearly one in three (31%) are there as a result of drugs offences. 105 More than 29,000 foreign national offenders have been removed from the UK since 2010.
106 418 people were in prison held solely under immigration powers on 4 January 2016. 107 Minority ethnic prisoners 26% of the prison population, 21,879 people, are from a minority ethnic group. 108 This compares to 14% of the general population. 109 One in 10 British prisoners are black and 6% are Asian. 110 For black Britons this is significantly higher than the 2.8% of the general population they represent.
111 According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, there is now greater disproportionality in the number of black people in prisons in the UK than in the United States. 112 The number of Muslim prisoners has more than doubled over the past 13 years. In 2002 there were 5,502 Muslims in prison, by 2016 this had risen to 12,543. They now account for 15% of the prison population.
113 Muslims in prison are far from being a homogeneous group. Some were born into Muslim families, and others have converted. 41% are Asian, 31% are black, 14% are white and 8% are mixed. 114
Black and minority ethnic and Muslim prisoners often report more negatively about their experience in prison and relationships with staff.
Fewer said they felt safe on their first night or at the time of the inspectorate’s survey; fewer had a member of staff they could turn to for help, and more said they had been victimised by staff. 115 4% of prisoners say they are Gypsy, Romany or Traveller. 116 However, “there is evidence of a possible reluctance by many prisoners to identify themselves as such.” 117 Older people With prison sentences getting longer, people are growing old behind bars. People aged 60 and over are the fastest growing age group in the prison estate. There are now nearly triple the number there were 15 years ago.
118 People aged 50 and over currently make up 15% of the prison population. There are 12,577 people aged 50 and over in prison in England and Wales—4,373 are aged 60 and over. 119 On 30 June 2015 there were 134 people in prison aged 80 and over. 123 were sentenced when they were over the age of 70. 1
2% of men in prison aged over 50 have been convicted of sex offences. The next highest offence category is violence against the person (25%) followed by drug offences (11%). 121 As the prison population ages, more prisoners will die of natural causes while in prison.
113 people aged 50 or over died of natural causes whilst in prison in 2015—more than double the number a decade ago. 122 Disability and health Disability 36% of prisoners are estimated to have a physical or mental disability. This compares with 19% of the general population. 123 18% of people in prison are estimated to have a physical disability. 124 People with learning disabilities and difficulties 20–30% of people in prison are estimated to have learning disabilities or difficulties that interfere with their ability to cope with the criminal justice system. 125 However, inspectors found that the system is failing to identify people with learning disabilities and difficulties adequately.
Nearly a third (32%) of people assessed in prison said they had a learning disability or difficulty. 127 23% of children in custody have very low IQs of below 70, and a further 36% have an IQ between 70–80). 128 Four-fifths of prisoners with learning disabilities or difficulties report having problems reading prison information—they also had difficulties expressing themselves and understanding certain words.
129 Independent inspectors found that “little thought was given to the need to adapt regimes to meet the needs of prisoners with learning disabilities who may find understanding and following prison routines very difficult.” 130 Prisoners with learning disabilities or difficulties are more likely than other prisoners to have broken a prison rule; they are five times as likely to have been subject to control and restraint, and around three times as likely to report having spent time in segregation.
131 The government has invested £75m in liaison and diversion services in police custody suites and the criminal courts, leading to 53% population coverage across England. Full roll out of services has yet to be announced. Prisoners with learning disabilities or difficulties were almost three times as likely as other prisoners to have clinically significant anxiety or depression, and most were both anxious and depressed. 132 Mental health 26% of women and 16% of men said they had received treatment for a mental health problem in the year before custody. 133 25% of women and 15% of men in prison reported symptoms indicative of psychosis.
134 The rate among the general public is about 4%. 1356% of women prisoners report having attempted suicide at some point in their lives. This is more than twice the rate of male prisoners (21%) and higher than in the general UK population (6%).
136 Suicide rates are significantly higher in custody than amongst the general population. In 2015 the rate of self-inflicted deaths amongst the prison population was 120 per 100,000 people, amongst the general population it is 10.8 per 100,000 people. 137 70% of people who died from self-inflicted means whilst in prison had already been identified with mental health needs. However, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) found that concerns about mental health problems had only been flagged at reception in just over half of these cases.
138 The PPO’s investigation found that nearly one in five of those diagnosed with a mental health problem received no care from a mental health professional in prison. 139 71% of transfers from prison to secure hospitals under the Mental Health Act between April to September 2015 took more than 14 days, the Department of Health’s expectation.
140 9,093 people have been referred for mental health treatment since the start of liaison and diversion services in England. 13% were detained under the Mental Health Act and 3% were admitted to a mental health hospital. 141 Drugs Former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick has said that new psychoactive substances (NPS) are now “the most serious threat to the safety and security of jails”.
142 They are a source of debt and associated bullying as well as a threat to health. 143 There were 851 recorded seizures of NPS in prison during October and November 2015. 144 The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman found that in 39 deaths in prison between June 2013 and June 2015, the prisoner was known, or strongly suspected, to have been using NPS before their deaths.
9% of prisoners reported that they had been pressured to give away their prescribed medication. 146 7% of men and 7% of women in prison reported that they had developed a problem with diverted medication. 147 Levels of drug use are high amongst offenders, with highest levels of use found amongst most prolific offenders. 64% of prisoners reported having used drugs in the four weeks before custody.
148 15% of men and women in prison are serving sentences for drug offences. 149 66% of women and 38% of men in prison report committing offences to get money to buy drugs. 150 Nearly half of women in prison report having committed offences to support someone else’s drug use. 151 Reconviction rates more than double for prisoners who reported using drugs in the four weeks before custody compared with prisoners who had never used drugs (62% vs. 30%).
152 Alcohol In almost half (47%) of all violent crimes the victim believed the offender or offenders to be under the influence of alcohol. 153 70% of prisoners surveyed said that they had been drinking when they committed their offence. 38% of people surveyed in prison believed that their drinking was a big problem. 154 Men and women in prison who reported drinking daily had an average of 20 units per day. This was equivalent to drinking four bottles of wine or ten pints of beer in a single day.
155ocial and economic disadvantage Education and skills Following a review of prison education by Dame Sally Coates, prison governors will be given control over their education budgets, the power to change providers, and be held to account for their educational outcomes.
156 42% of prisoners had been expelled or permanently excluded from school. 157 Half (51%) of people entering prison were assessed as having literacy skills expected of an 11 year old 158 — over three times higher than in the general adult population (15%). 159 Purposeful activity includes education, work and other activities to aid rehabilitation whilst in prison. However, purposeful activity outcomes are at the lowest level inspectors have ever recorded— they were only good or reasonably good in around a quarter of prisons.
160 Prison education standards are deteriorating. Almost three-quarters of prisons inspected by Ofsted were judged as requiring improvement or inadequate for learning and skills. 1
nspectors said that “prison regimes did not give sufficient priority to education and training as a means of reducing reoffending or rehabilitating offenders”. 162 The number of people achieving level 1 or 2 qualifications (GCSE level) has plummeted— falling by 37% in English and 34% in Maths between the 2011–12 and 2014–15 academic years.
163 The number of people in prison studying for an Open University degree has fallen by 37% since 2010. 164 Prisoners who had attend vocational training in prison are more likely to secure employment shortly after release 165 —a view endorsed by Ofsted. 166 Housing and employment 15% of newly sentenced prisoners reported being homeless before custody —9% were sleeping rough.
167 11% of prisoners released from custody in 2014– 15 had no settled accommodation. 168 Inspectors have said that the figures are “misleading” as “they do not take into account the suitability or sustainability of the accommodation.” 169 A third of prisoners reported being in paid employment in the four weeks before custody. 13% reported never having had a job.
170 Just over a quarter (27%) of people had a job on release from prison in 2014–15. 171 Outcomes for women are significantly worse than for men, with fewer than one in 10 women entering employment on release. 1
Just 16% of people leaving prison and referred to the Work Programme have found a job which they have held for six months or more. 173 Of these, a third have subsequently gone back to Jobcentre Plus. 174 The Prime Minister announced that the Civil Service will Ban the Box —removing the need to disclose unspent convictions at the initial job application stage.
175 Only 12% of employers surveyed said that they had employed somebody with a criminal record in the past three years. One in five employers said they either did or were likely to exclude them from the recruitment process. 176 Financial exclusion Almost three-quarters of prisoners surveyed said finance, benefits and debt were a very significant need on release—second only to accommodation. 177 The discharge grant has remained fixed at £46 since 1997.
Thousands of prisoners are ineligible, including those released from remand, fine defaulters and people serving less than 15 days. 178 People released from prison are more likely to be claiming benefits than other ex-offenders. More than half of people released from prison were claiming out-of-work benefits one month afterwards, with two-fifths still claiming benefits two years after release.
A third of prisoners reported that they did not have a bank account; of whom 31% had never had one. 180 Two-thirds of families said their debts had increased since the imprisonment of their relative. The same proportion of former prisoners felt that their debts had worsened during their sentence. 181 More than four in five former prisoners surveyed said their conviction made it harder to get insurance and four-fifths said that when they did get insurance, they were charged more.
The inability to obtain insurance can prevent access to mortgages and many forms of employment or self- employment. 182 Community solutions to crime 78% of unpaid work requirements were successfully completed from April to December 2014 —the highest proportion to date. 183 However, use of community sentences has nearly halved (44%) in the past decade. 184 85% of victims and 80% of offenders surveyed as part of a government funded £7m seven year research programme were either ‘very’ or ‘quite’ satisfied with their restorative conference. 185 27% fewer crimes were committed by offenders who had experienced restorative conferencing, compared with those offenders who did not.1