Offender Management Statistics
Last week (27 July 2023) the Ministry of Justice and Office for National Statistics published the latest edition of the Offender Management Statistics covering the first quarter of this year. While sometimes this set of statistics confirms lots of things we already know about the prison and probation system, on this occasion there are some significant changes.
As we know, the prison population has been growing rapidly this year. There were 85,851 prisoners in England and Wales on 30 June, 6% more than last year. One of the contributory factors to this rising population has been the increasing remand population trend that we have seen since early 2020 has continued (a 16% increase between 30 June 2022 and 30 June 2023). There were increases over the past 12 months in both elements of the remand population – the ‘untried’ population increased by 16% and the ‘convicted unsentenced’ population increased by 15%. This likely reflects the impact of continuing court recovery following COVID-19 restrictions, resulting in an increase in the number of prisoners held on remand. The large increase in the ‘untried’ population this quarter has likely also been driven in part by strike action by the Criminal Bar Association during autumn 2022.
It is unsurprising, then, that there were 17,139 first receptions into prison between January and March 2023, representing a rise of 12% compared to the same period in 2022.
By contrast the number of people released from prison in the first quarter of this year – 11,888 – was only 5% higher than the comparable period last year.
One significant contribution to the size of the prison population is the number of people recalled to prison which jumped 23% to 6,824 in the first quarter of this year compared to 2022. Even though the prison population has increased, the proportion who are inside because they have been recalled has increased by 20%. The statisticians attribute the increasing recall population to a combination of factors such as the longer-term increase in the average length of determinate sentences and an increase in the number of people serving indeterminate sentences or sentences with an extended licence. Essentially, if you are on licence for a longer period, there is more likelihood that you will be recalled, with just 27% recalls in the first quarter of this year being because a person faced a further criminal charge – and some of these charges will be not proven, and some not even prosecuted to see the outcome once a person is returned to prison.
Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL)
Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) continues to ‘bounce back’ following the large drop during the COVID-19 period. There were around 96,000 ROTL incidences between January and March 2023 – this is a 13% increase compared to the same quarter in 2022, but still some-way short of the pre-COVID levels of around 110,000 per quarter.
Foreign National Offenders
There were 10,321 (3,355 remand, 6,453 sentenced and 513 non-criminal) foreign nationals held in custody on 30 June 2023; representing 12% of the total prison population. The number of FNOs in the prison population has increased by 7% compared to 30 June 2022.
This is largely driven by the 22% increase in the FNO remand population which contributed more than two and a half times as many additional individuals as the 4% increase in the sentenced FNO population. The non-criminal FN population fell by 29% over the same period. The most common nationalities after British Nationals in prisons are Albanian (14% of the FNO prison population), Polish (8%), Romanian (7%), Irish (6%), Jamaican (4%), and Lithuanian (4%).
The total number of offenders on probation (i.e., court orders and pre/post-release supervision) at the end of March 2023 was 239,518. This represents a 0.6% decrease compared to the end of March 2022 and a 0.4% decrease on the previous quarter.
The balance of the caseload continues to change with a continuing drop in the numbers on court orders but an increase on those supervised before or after prison release.
Between the end of March 2022 and the end of March 2023, court order caseload decreased by 2% from 113,378 to 111,038, with the number of offenders on a community order (CO) decreasing by 5% and those on a suspended sentence order (SSO) with requirements increasing by 2%.
The total caseload of offenders supervised before or after release from prison at the end of March 2023 was 132,872, representing an increase of 1% compared to the end of March 2022.
More violent offenders on supervision
However, it was pleasing to see sentencers being more prepared to consider supervision for more serious offences. The numbers of offenders starting Probation Service supervision due to committing a violent offence against a person have seen increases for both COs and SSOs since January to March 2022, with those starting COs increasing by 10% to 2,508 and SSOs increasing by 14% to 1,891 in January to March 2023. Consequently, the number of offenders on the Probation Service supervision caseload for a violence against the person offence as of 31 March 2023 also increased by 23% to 10,191 for COs and by 15% to 9,033 for SSOs.
More treatment requirements
There was also more use of mental health treatment requirements (MHTR) within COs and SSOs following the scaling up of availability of this sentence across the country. Compared to the same quarter in 2022, the number of MHTRs increased by 102% to 506.
In terms of the most frequently used combinations of requirements, rehabilitation requirements combined separately with alcohol abstinence and monitoring, drug treatment, and alcohol treatment requirements increased by 45%, 36% and 15% respectively under COs in January to March 2023 compared to the same period a year ago. Under SSOs, rehabilitation requirements combined separately with alcohol abstinence and monitoring, alcohol treatment and drug treatment increased by 33%, 20% and 10% respectively.
Finally, there was also a welcome increase in the total number of pre-sentence reports (PSRs) prepared by 7% to 23,235 compared to the previous quarter and by 11% compared to the same quarter in 2022.
Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here