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This topic provides key statistics on receptions into prison establishments and characteristics of the prison population in England and Wales.

Publications

End of custody licence release and recalls
Department: Justice
Monthly statistical release on the numbers released from prison on end of custody licence and offenders recalled back to prison during the end of custody licence period. The publication contains details on releases by offence group, sentence length, age, ethnic group and establishment, and recalls by reason for recall.
Multi agency public protection arrangements annual report
Department: Justice
Statistics regarding various aspects of the delivery of Multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) in England and Wales.
Offender Management Caseload Statistics, England and Wales
Department: Justice
The annual release covers the two main areas of offender management - probation and prison - in England and Wales. For those under probation service supervision, the main characteristics of offenders, activities relating to pre- and post-release supervision and breaches of community sentences are shown. For those in prison, the main characteristics of the prison population, receptions and releases are presented. A consultation on proposed changes to this publication and related statistics took place between 24 July and 22 August 2008.
Offender management statistics quarterly bulletin
Department: Justice
This publication provides key statistics relating to offenders who are in custody or under Probation Service supervision. It covers flows into these services (receptions into prison or probation starts) and flows out (discharges from prison or probation termination) as well as the caseload of both services at specific points in time. The publication also includes information on returns to custody following recall.
Population in custody, England and Wales
Department: Justice
Monthly statistical release presenting tables on the population in custody with summary figures on the population in prison establishments, police cells, secure children's homes and secure training centres. The publication also contains more detailed information on the make-up of the prison population by custody type, offence group, sentence length, age group and establishment. On a quarterly basis information on the population of foreign nationals within prison, by establishment and nationality, is also included.
Prison Statistics and Prison Population Projections, Scotland
Department: Scottish Government
This publication contains figures on the Scottish prison population, including daily average population by type of custody and establishment, characteristics of prisoners and receptions to/liberations from penal establishments. It also contains analysis of recent trends in the prison population plus projections for the next 10 financial years.
Prison Statistics, Scotland
Department: Scottish Government
Statistical bulletin giving information on prisoner population, liberations and receptions in the financial year.
Prison and Probation Trust rating System
Department: Justice
NOMS produces data-driven assessments of performance for probation trusts using an assessment framework that was agreed with the Ministry of Justice - the Probation Trust Rating System (PTRS). This assesses the 35 probation trusts in England and Wales by looking at performance in about 42 indicators.
Prison population and accommodation weekly bulletin
Department: Justice
Weekly report on the total population in prison and useable operational capacity of prisons. Published on the HMPS website.
Prison population monthly bulletin
Department: Justice
Monthly bulletin on the population in, and capacity of, each prison establishment. Published on the HMPS website.
Prison population projections, England and Wales
Department: Justice
The release (generally annual) gives the projected monthly prison population in England and Wales for the next six years. Sub-population (such as gender) estimates are presented alongside the effects of legislation, sentencing activity, and so on relevant to the prison population.
Prison population projections, Scotland
Department: Scottish Government
Analysis of recent trends in the prison population plus projections for the next 10 financial years.
Safety in custody
Department: Justice
Annual statistical bulletin on deaths, self-harm and violence in prison custody.
Story of the Prison Population
Department: Justice
An analysis of what has happened to the prison population in the period stated and what has caused the changes.
Story of the Prison Population
Department: Justice
Presentation slides by the Ministry of Justice on prison population trends from 1993 to 2012.
The Northern Ireland Prison Population
Department: Justice (Northern Ireland)
The size and composition of the prison population of Norhern Ireland and compared data with previous years during the last decade.
The Prison Performance Digest
Department: Justice
The Prison Performance Digest presents a breakdown by individual establishment of performance over the past 15 years, up to and including 2009/10, against a number of indicators (KPI and non-KPI).

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Overview

The prison population includes prisoners remanded by courts and prisoners sentenced to a custodial sentence. Further information on statistics and trends can be found in the annual publication ‘Offender Management Statistics Quarterly Bulletin’ and ‘Population in Custody monthly tables’.

Tougher sentencing and enforcement outcomes caused the majority of the increase in prison population between 1995 and 2008, while a more severe mix of offence groups coming before the courts caused the remainder. Legislative and policy changes have made minimum sentence lengths longer for certain offences and increased the likelihood of offenders being recalled to be imprisoned (for both breach of non-custodial sentences or release conditions), and to remain in custody for longer.

It is also helpful to look at trends in the number of prisoners received into prison; it informs understanding of the reasons behind current and future changes in the size and make-up of the prison population. Some changes in the number and type of people received will have an immediate impact on the prison population.

A fall in the custody rate, for example, will lead to an immediate drop in the prison population if all other factors remain the same. An increase or decrease in the average sentence length of those received will usually take some months to have an impact.

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Technical Data

Prison population information has been drawn from two prison sources. The first source is the routine provision of records by prison establishments of the numbers of people held in custody at the end of each month, broadly divided according to age, sex, custody type and sentence length. Records are collated and processed centrally, to produce the main estimates of the end of month population presented.

The second source is the electronically held details for individual inmates such as date of birth, sex, religion, ethnic origin, custody type, offence, and reception and discharge dates and, for sentenced prisoners, sentence length.

These data are collected on a central computer database and used to produce analyses by offence group and individual year of age. They form the basis of detailed population breakdowns, supplementing the aggregates derived from the first source, to which they are scaled for consistency. A new, more detailed, method of scaling this information was developed in 2004.

Counting Procedures

Receptions

There are four main categories of receptions - untried, convicted unsentenced, sentenced and non-criminal. In the tables on remand receptions, a person is generally counted separately, once if received as untried and once if received as convicted unsentenced for each fresh set of charges. A person first enters the remand population when remanded in custody on or after his or her first appearance in court on a charge or summons. If subsequently received under sentence, he or she is counted in that category also.

An individual may therefore appear in the tables more than once in different categories or on separate occasions in one year. Recalls to custody after release on licence or parole are excluded from the sentenced reception figures, but those whose original sentence had been reactivated because of a new offence committed during the 'at risk' period are included.

Offences

When a person is received under sentence for several offences, or if a person is received under sentence and at the same time is committed for a non-criminal matter, only the principal criminal offence is recorded in the tables. Selection of the principal criminal offence is based on:

  • where a person is received under sentence for two or more criminal offences, the offence selected is the one for which the heaviest sentence is imposed

  • where the same sentences are imposed for two or more criminal offences, the offence selected is the one for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe

Length of sentence

When a person is received under sentence for two or more sentences passed at the same time and ordered to run consecutively they are treated as one sentence equal in length to the sentences added together. With concurrent sentences, the longest sentence is recorded. When a person is received to serve a period of imprisonment composed of a sentence for a criminal offence and a consecutive period of imprisonment in connection with a non-criminal matter, the total period of imprisonment is recorded against the criminal offence.

Age group

In reception tables, adults are those aged 21 and over at the date of sentence, young adults are those aged 18 to 20. In population tables, adults include those aged 21 and over at the date of sentence and those sentenced to detention in a young offender institution who have had their sentence converted to imprisonment.

The term young offender refers to those given a custodial sentence when aged under 21 who have not subsequently been reclassified as adults. It therefore encompasses inmates under 21 and those who have reached 21 but have not yet been reclassified. (Young adults are prisoners aged 18 to 20, but also includes those aged 21 who were aged 20 or under at conviction who have not been reclassified as part of the adult population).

The publication from which this information was drawn is available from the Justice website.

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Glossary

  • Adult prisoners

    These are prisoners aged 21 years and over.

  • Immediate custodial sentence

    This does not include fine defaulters.

  • Indeterminate sentences

    These cover life sentences and indeterminate sentences for public protection (IPP).

  • Population in custody

    This includes those held in prison establishments, police cells under Operation Safeguard, Secure Training Centres (STCs) and Secure Children’s Homes (SCHs). All coverage is for England and Wales.

  • Population in prison

    This includes those held in prisons, including the three removal centres of Dover, Haslar and Lindholme.

  • Sentenced population

    This includes those sentenced to an immediate custodial sentence and fine defaulters.

  • Young adults

    These are prisoners aged 18 to 20, but including 21-year-old prisoners who were aged 20 or under at conviction who have not been reclassified as part of the adult population

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Prison and Probation Statistics Team

Email: statistics.enquiries@justice.gsi.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7035 3470

Prison and Probation Statistics Team Offender Management and Sentencing: Analytical Services Ministry of Justice, 2nd Floor Fry Building 2 Marsham Street London SW1P 4DF

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