There will be an Opposition day debate on Prisons and Probation on Tuesday 14 May 2019. The Library has prepared the following background material.

Key statistics

These statistics are for England and Wales. The Library briefing UK Prison Population Statistics contains some statistics for Scotland and Northern Ireland.


  • In England and Wales there are 118 prisons. Thirteen are operated by private sector companies.
  • Population: At the end of 2018, 82,236 people were in prison in England and Wales. This was equivalent to around 140 people per 100,000 of the population. This figure was 270 per 100,000 of the male population.
  • Change in the prison population: The prison population quadrupled in size between 1900 and 2018, with most of the rise taking place since 1990. Despite the overall rise, the population fell by around 3,000 inmates between 2017 and 2018.
  • Profile of prisoners: Ninety-five per cent of prisoners are male. Around 17% were under the age of 25 (although less than 1% were under 18) at the end of 2018. The share of the prison population aged 50+ rose from 7% in 2002 to 16% in 2018. In the prison population, around 26% identify as a non-white ethnicity, compared with 13% in the general population.
  • Safety in prisons: There were 34,200 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults recorded in prisons in 2018. This was up 16% on the previous year and more than double the number recorded in 2013.
  • Cost: In 2017/18, total direct expenditure on prisons was £2.0 billion, equivalent to around £24,000 per prisoner.


  • Caseload: At the end of 2018, there were 256,000 offenders being supervised in the community (on probation).
  • Type of supervision: In 2018, 28% of supervised offenders were serving community orders, 17% were on suspended sentences, and 59% were being supervised having been in custody.
  • Change in the caseload: The total supervision caseload at the end of 2018 was 5% higher than in 2007 (the earliest year for which we have data). Prior to the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014, the probation caseload had been falling year-on-year but between 2014 and 2018, the caseload rose by 18%.
  • Probation management: Fifty-eight per cent of offenders on probation are supervised by Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), and the remaining 41% by the National Probation Service. CRCs manage low- and medium-risk offenders and the NPS manages high-risk offenders.
  • Performance: The most recent, final, proven re-offending statistics show that 42% of offenders supervised in the community went on to re-offend. This figure was 37% among CRC supervisees and 43% among NPS supervisees.
  • Cost: Net expenditure on CRCs in 2017/18 was £389 million. When adjusting for inflation, expenditure on the CRCs component of probation fell by 30% between 2015/16 and 2017/18. Net expenditure on the NPS in 2016/17 was £414 million in nominal terms. HMPPS changed its practice of reporting NPS expenditure in 2017/18, so we cannot compare NPS funding over time.

 Sources of statistics:

Ministry of Justice, Offender management statistics quarterly

Ministry of Justice, Safety in custody statistics

HMPPS, Breakdown List of the Prison Estate and CPAs

Ministry of Justice, Payment by results statistics

HMPPS, Annual Report and Accounts 2017-18

Key reading

Library papers

 Justice Committee reports

 Key annual reports

 Parliamentary material


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