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10 New Prison Facts From The Summer 2023 Bromley Briefing
The latest (summer 2023) prison facts and figures from the Prison Reform Trust.

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Prison trends

Anyone and everyone who wants accurate up-to-date information on what is going on in our prisons relies on the prison factfiles produced by the Prison Reform Trust. Known as the Bromley Briefings, they are issued twice a year. The summer 2023 edition was published last Friday (30 June 2023) and I have already blogged on the prison capacity crisis on which that edition leads. As usual, I have perused the Briefing in depth and found 10 key facts to share in this post. Since readers of the blog are more than averagely well informed about penal affairs, I have tried to feature some of the less well-known issues.

1: Prison capacity

Nearly 10,700 prison places have been closed since 2010—many of them old and/or dilapidated. At the same time, nearly 11,000 places have been created, a net increase of just 300 prison places.

2: More people on remand…

On 31 March 2023 there were 14,591 people in prison on remand, a rise of almost a half (45%) in just three years, and is currently at a near record level. People on remand currently make up more than one in seven people in prison (17%). Around two thirds are awaiting trial (67%), whilst the rest await sentencing.

3: …for longer periods of time

Almost a third (32%) of people on remand, 4,582 people, have been there for longer than six months. More than one in 20 (5%) have been there for two years or more (770 people). More than third (35%) of self-inflicted deaths in 2022 involved people held on remand—far higher
than the proportion of the prison population they represent (17%).

4: Racial disparity

Research has found a clear direct association between ethnic group and the odds of receiving a
custodial sentence. Black people are 53%, Asian 55%, and other ethnic groups 81% more likely to be sent to prison for an indictable offence at the Crown Court, even when factoring in higher not-guilty plea rates.

5: Extremism

Only 157 people, 1% of Muslims in prison, are currently there for Islamist extremist terrorism related offences. The number of Muslims in prison for terror offences peaked at 185 in 2017. By contrast the number of people in prison for right-wing extremism has risen to 64, up from six people in 2016.

6: Foreign nationals in prison

Foreign nationals (non-UK passport holders) currently make up 12% of the prison population in England and Wales. On 31 March 2023 there were 10,148 foreign nationals in prison. Foreign national prisoners come from 162 countries—but over half are from nine countries (Albania, Poland, Romania, Ireland, Jamaica, Lithuania, Portugal, Pakistan and Somalia).

7: Care-prison pathway

A disproportionate number of children in custody come from a care background. Fewer than 1% of all children in England are in care, but almost half of children in secure training centres (46%) and more than half in young offender institutions (62%) have been in care.

8: Mental health crisis

1,057 people were transferred from prison to a secure hospital in 2022, the second highest number since records began.

9: Life sentences are getting longer

More than one in five people currently in prison on a life sentence (22%) have already served their minimum term. They have spent an average of 9.2 extra years in prison.

10: Prison doesn’t work

Research for the Sentencing Council found that “the current evidence does not suggest that increasing the length of prison sentences is an effective way to reduce reoffending”. It also found that “the evidence against the effectiveness of short custodial sentences is amongst the most robust”.

Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here

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