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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

10 shocking facts about prison in 2018

Latest Bromley Briefing charts the extraordinary rise in prison numbers over the last twenty years, inflation in sentencing and the social and economic consequences of overuse of custody.

A prison system in crisis

Last week (24 July 2018), the Prison Reform Trust published its most recent “Bromley Briefing” – an up-to-date compendium of facts that give an accurate, if depressing account of the state of our prison system.

If you ever need the latest, official information on anything to do with the penal system, the most recent briefing is always your best source.

Below are ten headline facts from the latest edition; for regular readers I’ve tried to pick the less well-known ones.

1: Recalls continue to rise

Anyone leaving custody who has served two days or more is now required to serve a minimum of 12 months under supervision in the community. As a result, the number of people recalled back to custody has increased, particularly amongst women. 8,825 people serving a sentence of less than 12 months were recalled to prison in
the year to December 2017.

2: The cost of prison slashed

The cost of a prison place has reduced by nearly a quarter (23%) between 2009–10 and 2016–17. The average annual overall cost of a prison place in England and Wales is now £38,042.

3: Racism on remand

Black men are 26%, and mixed ethnicity men 22% more likely to be remanded in custody at the Crown court than white men.

4: Sex offences and older prisoners

One in six people (16%) in prison are aged 50 or over—13,559 people. Of these, 3,278 are in their 60s and a further 1,665 people are 70 or older. 45% of men in prison aged over 50 have been convicted of sex offences. The next highest offence category is violence against the person (23%) followed by drug offences (9%).

5: Learning disability/difficulty

Nearly a third of people assessed in prison in 2016–17 reported that they had a learning disability or difficulty. 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

6: Foreign national prisoners

Foreign nationals (non-UK passport holders) currently make up 11% of the prison population in England and Wales. On 31 March 2018 there were 9,318 foreign nationals in prison. Foreign national prisoners come from 162 countries—but over half are from nine countries (Poland, Albania, Ireland, Romania, Jamaica, Lithuania, Pakistan, Somalia and Portugal).

7: Women still imprisoned for non-dangerous offences

More women were sent to prison to serve a sentence for theft than for violence against the person, robbery, sexual offences, fraud, drugs, and motoring offences combined.

8: Young offender education very poor

Time spent in education and training in young offender institutions remains limited. Last year children spent less than 14 hours a week on average in education in publicly run institutions. Those held at the only private institution, Parc, had over 24 hours a week on average in education and vocational training.

9: Temporary release works

There were just 17 failures as a result of alleged further offending out of nearly 333,000 instances of ROTL in 2016.

10: Resettlement

Nearly everyone in prison will be released at some point. 71,495 people were released in 2017 although only 27% had a job to go to.

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