This House of Commons Briefing Paper analyses the debate over the voting rights of prisoners since May 2015, it also includes a concise summary of the main developments before May 2015.
There will be an Opposition day debate on Prisons and Probation on Tuesday 14 May 2019. The Library has prepared the following background material.
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
Ministry of Justice, Payment by results statistics
- Youth Custody 02 May 2019 | Commons Briefing papers | CBP-8557
- General debate on the cost and effectiveness of sentences under 12 months and consequences for the prison population 06 Mar 2019 | Commons Debate packs | CDP-2019-0063
- The prison estate 12 Dec 2018 | Commons Briefing papers | SN05646
- UK Prison Population Statistics 23 Jul 2018 | Commons Briefing papers | SN04334
- Contracting out of probation services 04 Jul 2018 | Commons Briefing papers | SN06894
- Mental health in prisons 08 Jan 2018 | Commons Debate packs | CDP-2017-0266
- Safety in prisons in England and Wales 05 Dec 2017 | Commons Briefing papers | CBP-7467
Justice Committee reports
- Prison Population 2022: planning for the future. Justice Committee sixteenth report. 19 Mar 2019 | Parliamentary committees – Select Committee reports – House of Commons papers | House of Commons | HC 483 2017-19
- Transforming rehabilitation. Justice Committee ninth report with formal minutes. 19 Jun 2018 | Parliamentary committees – Select Committee reports – House of Commons papers | House of Commons | HC 482 2017-19
Key annual reports
- HM Inspectorate of Probation, Report of the Chief Inspector of Probation March 2019, March 2019
- Prison and Probation Ombudsman, Annual Report 2017-18, October 2018
- HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Annual Report 2017-18, 11 July 2018
- Grayling probation changes ‘took unacceptable risks’ with public money, Guardian, 05.2019
- The Times view on Chris Grayling’s botched probation reforms: Failed Experiment, Times, 05.2019
- Why is England’s probation system in meltdown?, Financial Times, 04.2019
- Clinks’ response to the HM Inspectorate of Probation’s consultation on the inspection of probation providers, Clinks, 23.04.2019
- Clinks’ response to the HM Inspectorate of Probation’s statutory consultation on inspection framework and programmes, Clinks, 23.04.2019
- HM Inspectorate of Prisons consultation on inspection framework and programmes 2019–20, Prison Reform Trust, April 2019
- Outsourcing of prisons needs to be rethought, Financial Times, 08.04.2019
- The PAVA debate—why the prison service must think again, Prison Reform Trust, 04.04.2019
- Probation services: Part-privatised system ‘flawed’, BBC, 23.04.2019
- What went wrong at Britain’s prison of the future?, Financial Times, 03.2019
The Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill 2019-21 was introduced to the House of Commons on 5 February 2020. It is a Private Members’ Bill introduced by Dame Cheryl Gillan. It is due to have second reading on 16 October 2020. The Bill has Government support. Explanatory Notes have been prepared by the Ministry of Justice.
The Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims) Bill 2019-21 was introduced in the House of Commons on 8 January 2020. It completed all stages in the House of Lords on 8 September 2020 and is due to return to the Commons on 6 October 2020 for consideration of a Lords amendment.