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10 (more) shocking facts about our prisons

The 2016 Prison Reform Trust Bromley Briefing makes for even more dispiriting - if necessary - reading than usual in this annus horribilis for the prison service

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Bromley Briefing 2016

The Prison Reform Trust has just (December 2016) 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.

Here’s ten headline facts from the latest edition; I’ve tried to steer away from the shocking violence and self-harm figures since they’ve been covered so regularly in the blog this year:

1: Overcrowding

At the end of October 2016, 77 of the 117 prisons in England and Wales were overcrowded — holding 9,762 people more than they were designed to.

2: Cost of prison place falls

The cost of a prison place reduced by 20% between 2009–10 and 2015–16. The average annual overall cost of a prison place in England and Wales is now £35,182.

3: Staff retention

13.5% of frontline operational staff appointed in 2014–15 quit within their first year.

4: Level of needs

The graphic below shows the social characteristics of adult prisoners compared to the general population:


5: Remands

More than one in ten people (10,631) remanded in custody during the year to June 2016 were subsequently acquitted. A further 15% of people (14,378) received a non-custodial sentence.

6: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller prisoners

5% of prisoners say they are Gypsy, Romany or Traveller, compared to an estimated 0.1% of the general population in England. This is despite evidence of a possible reluctance by many prisoners to identify themselves as such.

7: Foreign national prisoners

The total number of foreign national (non-UK passport holders) prisoners has fallen slightly over recent years. However, Foreign nationals currently make up 12% of the prison population in England and Wales. On 30 June 2016 there were 9,980 foreign nationals in prison. Foreign national prisoners come from 172 countries—but over half are from nine countries (Poland, Ireland, Romania, Albania, Jamaica, Lithuania, Pakistan, India and Somalia).

8: Rise in New Psychoactive Substances

The number of incidents where NPS drugs were found in prisons in England and Wales has jumped from 136 in 2011 to 4,261 in 2015—a rise of more than 30 times. Lower rates of drug use were reported by people who spent more than ten hours a day out of their cells—13% compared with 19%.

9: Mental health

26% of women and 16% of men said they had received treatment for a mental health problem in the year before custody.

10: The cost of reoffending

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 year

Although I have picked out 10 key facts; I could have picked another 20, or 50. To whet your appetite to peruse the fact file, here is another set of key figures from just one page of the briefing:


See this post from last year for other shocking facts about our prison system.


All prison posts are kindly sponsored by Prison Consultants Limited who offer a complete service from arrest to release for anyone facing prison and their family. Prison Consultants have no editorial influence on the contents of this site.

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2 Responses

  1. Fantastic information, please keep me informed as l want to help. Currently volunteer for Uservoice cz Birmingham. I want to help put experience ,view , observations and solutions across. Your in in put would be invaluable. Not only to me to help people but to other organisations such as the revolving door org they are amazing yet probation officers are unaware of just don’t refer.also email errolprincecole best wishes Kaz

  2. Ciao sono la moglie di un prigioniero al thameside 3 giorni fa mio marito e sta derubato nella cella da 2 prigionieri le guardie anno visto anno riferito al governatore ma il signor governatore a pensato bene di non punire questi 2 uomini in più mio marito e stato minacciato di morte con delle lamette e nessuno prende provvedimenti non so come risolvere questa situazione chi può aiutarmi

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